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Museum Of London Bill

Volume 87: debated on Thursday 21 November 1985

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Order for Second Reading read.

7 pm

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The main purpose of this short Bill is to give the Government and the Corporation of the City of London equal shares in the funding of the Museum of London and in the appointment of members of its board of governors, following the abolition of the Greater London council. At present, the Government, the City and the GLC each contribute one third of the members of the board. As the House will recall, last Session the Government announced their intention to divide the GLC's share equally between the two other partners after abolition. It was not possible to make provision for those new arrangements in the Local Government Act 1985 which abolishes the GLC. This was partly because the Government wanted to make amendments to the Museum of London Act 1965 and to effect other repeals, neither of which could be done under the terms of that Act. Therefore, the Local Government Act provided for the transfer, from next April, of the whole of the GLC's share to the Government, as an interim measure. The Bill supersedes the relevant provisions of the Local Government Act before they come into effect, and amends the 1965 Act governing the Museum of London.

The Bill is being treated as a hybrid measure. Hon. Members will recall that that involves special additional parliamentary procedures. The procedures are already under way, and I have no reason to expect any difficulty. They do not affect today's Second Reading debate.

Before I deal in detail with the contents of the Bill, it may be helpful to remind the House of the history of the Museum of London. The museum had its origins in two long-established institutions—the Guildhall museum, primarily concerned with the square mile of the City, and the London museum, concerned with a much broader survey of London's history. The two museums were merged into one organisation on 1 June 1975 when the Museum of London Act 1965 came into effect. In December 1976, the present superb Museum of London building in the Barbican, specially designed to accommodate the joint collections, was opened by Her Majesty the Queen.

The Guildhall museum was established in 1826 by the corporation as an adjunct to its newly revitalised library. It was to accommodate
"such antiquities as relate to the City and suburbs".
The museum was, from the start, intimately associated with the archaeological investigations of building sites in the City. In 1966 the museum became a separate department of the corporation. In 1973 a full department of urban archaeology was established at the museum.

The London museum was founded in 1911, when the first Viscount Harcourt used private funds at his disposal to establish the museum at Kensington palace. Financial support was assumed by the Treasury in 1912. The museum was governed by Treasury minute and administered through a board of trustees.

After the second world war, closer working links were established between the two museums, mainly as the result of arrangements for the excavation of the City's war-damaged site. By 1960, it had become apparent that the premises in which the museums were housed were inadequate. Negotiations began which had the object of merging the museums into a new and comprehensive institution to be devoted to the history of Greater London. The agreement eventually reached was formalised in the Museum of London Act 1965.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the present board of governors of the Museum of London, under the distinguished chairmanship of Mr. Michael Robbins, and to the museum's talented director, Mr. Max Hebditch. Together they have contributed to an enormous amount to its successful development in the past 10 years, and have enabled it to become widely admired as a jewel in London's crown. It is fitting also to recognise that this would not have been possible without the tremendous support and encouragement of the Corporation of the City of London, to which we are all indebted, not least for the fine premises which the museum now occupies. We must build on this success and establish the statutory basis for the museum's development in the decades that lie ahead. The museum and the City welcome the 50:50 sharing arrangement and the clarification of the board's powers. The Bill has their support.

The Bill's main purpose is to share the appointment of governors and the funding between the Government and the City on a 50:50 basis. That is achieved by clauses 1 and 3. It also redefines the powers of the board of governors, for the sake of clarity and to bring them more into line with other modern museum legislation. That is the object of clause 2. I shall say more in a moment about the funding of archaeological services in London, which is covered by the new provisions in clause 4.

Clause 1 deals with the appointment of governors and provides that the Prime Minister and City corporation should each appoint nine, in place of the six currently appointed by each of the Prime Minister, the City and the GLC. There are transitional provisions to stagger the terms of office of the new appointees. Clause 1 supersedes the relevant provisions in the Local Government Act 1985.

I may have misread the Local Government Act 1985, but it would appear that this Bill seeks to change the original Museum of London Act 1965. However, decisions in relation to that Act were made during the passage of the Local Government Act. It was decided that the number of board members to be appointed by the Prime Minister would be 12, so that there was a 12 to six split. The rectification in this Bill seems to run counter to the decisions made in July this year, and the Bill does not refer to the fact that the Local Government Act 1985 provided a different balance of governors. Will the Minister clarify that point'?

The position is slightly confused by the fact that the Local Government Act 1985 included interim provisions that will not take effect until after 1 April next year. What we are seeking to do now, with the approval of the House, is to nullify the provisions of the 1985 Act which relate to the Museum of London after 1 April 1986. We are trying to alter a piece of legislation which in any event will not come into effect until 1 April. If the hon. Gentleman is not satisfied with that answer, I shall seek the leave of the House at the end of the debate to clarify the matter.

Clause 2 provides a fuller definition of the board of governors' powers, including its powers over property. It empowers the board to provide archaeological services and to undertake archaeological investigations and research. All this is done by substituting new sections in place of the existing sections of the 1965 Act.

Clause 3 deals with the finance and provides that the Government and City should have an equal share in the main funding of the museum, in place of the current one third shares of the Government, City and GLC. Clause 3 supersedes the corresponding provisions of the Local Government Act.

Clause 4 enables the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission to make grants to the museum to assist it in providing archaeological services, separately from the main funding of the museum. Clauses 5 and 6 and the schedule cover expenses, the short title, commencement and repeals.

I have already mentioned the new funding arrangements. The increase in the Government's share—equivalent to about £700,000 on the basis of the present year's main budget for the museum—will be met from the £17 million set aside for museums, which is within the £43 million of extra central funding for the arts in 1986–87 following the abolition of the GLC and metropolitan county councils which I announced last week.

The Bill is also important for the future of rescue archaeology work in London. Of course, this work in London is not new. Perhaps archaeology was once thought to be of little relevance to the present, and could safely be left to the academics, but it is now an activity that engages the hearts and minds of many hundreds of people every year, young and old, many of them participating as volunteers. Archaeology is now seen as a way of knowing about and understanding how generations past used to live and work. It helps us to understand better how and why we got to where we are now. We excavate, record, conserve and learn.

Of course, all of this does not just happen. Somebody has to inspire, organise and co-ordinate, and find the money. For the past three years London has been particularly well served. The Greater London archaeology service, based at the Museum of London, has done all these things and it has earned a high respect in the process. The GLC has provided the necessary funds and has also continued the important task of grant-aiding individual rescue archaeology projects.

We have never been in any doubt about the importance of any of this work. Equally, we have never been in any doubt that the abolition of the GLC should not in itself signal the end of the Greater London archaeology service. In this we have been supported by the Museum of London and the many professional bodies concerned. Not least, we have been supported by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. The commission needs no introduction to this House, and its commitment to archaeology is well known. It spends not only some £3.5 million in support of rescue archaeology projects in the country as a whole, but also some £2 million on the work of its own excavation unit and contracts to universities and museums for scientific and conservation work and the storage of archives.

The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission is admirably well equipped to take over the GLC's involvement in and financial support for the Greater London archaeological service. It is a measure of the commission's commitment that it has readily agreed to take on the task. We now have to give the commission the power to grant-aid the Museum of London, so that it in turn may ensure that the Greater London archaeology service continues. Clause 4, and the corresponding clarification of the museum's powers in clause 2, meet the commitment given by the Government during the debate on the Local Government Act. That commitment was that we would include an extension of the commission's power to grant-aid archaeology work so that it could grant-aid the management and establishment costs of the Greater London archaeology service at the museum. The commission's annual grant from next year onwards will reflect these additional responsibilities.

I am grateful to the Minister for his remarks about the GLC's contribution to the London archaeological service. Most Ministers find it hard to say anything nice about the GLC. I am intrigued about one aspect of the Bill. Clause 2 says that archaeological investigations and research can take place in Greater London and in the surrounding region. Can the Minister tell us how he sees the region outside Greater London? What is his definition of it?

My answer is probably right, but I am subject to correction. If I am wrong, I will try to put the matter right. In talking about the rescue service and specific projects, we are talking principally about the Greater London area as a whole. I will seek to clarify that at the end of the debate.

I hope that this rather full explanation of the purpose of the Bill has been helpful. The arrangements in the Bill are in the best interests of all concerned. The future of this excellent museum will be secure and its wide-ranging activities will continue to be of great benefit and value to all who live in, work in or visit our capital city.

7.15 pm

I am grateful for the opportunity to have another look at this Bill. The Minister is aware that the hostility to the changes in local government in London is not diminished by this kind of attempt to cope with the difficulties in which the Government have landed many institutions in the metropolitan counties and the GLC. The Bill takes effect from April onwards, and the initial provisions leading up to April, which were rather different, will be rescinded.

As my hon. Friends have said, the whole proposition follows inevitably from the political pique with which the Government behaved towards London over the past two years leading up to the abolition of any proper government for the city. This attempt to deal with the situation is fraught with at least two major dangers. The first is that it almost entirely liquidates any kind of democratic control over the appointment of the governors of the Museum of London, certainly in relation to the people of London.

The previous structure fully recognised the nature of the museum. The old Guildhall museum was about the City of London. The combined museum was certainly that, but it was also a developing museum dedicated to the life, the work and the background of the people of London as a whole. In their wisdom, the Government have decided to wipe out London in that sense and also in the sense of the City's understanding of itself as a community with its own democratic government.

The three-way division between the GLC, the Government and the City of London, was a generous recognition of the historic role of the City of London. Rather than the recognition that it was an area which could provide the best kind of governance for the museum, it was more or less a recognition of the peculiar and particular concept of the City which is so strange to people outside this country. This strange body, with all its medieval rites—and perhaps rights as well—is not necessarily the best body to look after the total museum. It is said that it is not necessarily remaining in the mists of antiquity, but is somehow representing the more recent life of the City.

We now have the extraordinary position that the people of London, through their democratic representatives, have no say on the board of governors of the City of London. It is left to appointments by the Government and by this curious body, the City of London. I come from north of the border, and I find the concept of the City of London as strange as do people from New Zealand, Equador or Australia.

I have carried out a little homework on the subject. The City is the last place in Britain that retains the archaic form of voting and representation that we used to call the business vote. There were long fights to establish the principle of one man, one vote, but we do not have one man, one vote in some of our institutions. At least in a democracy we have achieved that, but the same does not apply to the City.

The Corporation of London is unique among municipalities for its constitution, its 800 years of history and its somewhat exceptional powers and activities. It is composed of a mayor and commonalty and the citizens of the City of London. It is governed by the Court of Common Council, which consists of the lord mayor, 24 aldermen and 136 common councilmen.

It is a deliberative body and also a legislative assembly, and it can remodel its own constitution—which is more than the GLC can do. Aldermen are elected by ward motes. I am an old Anglo-Saxon scholar and I rather like that system of motes. It would be rather attractive if it could be extended to other areas. However, nobody can vote for a person unless he is already a freeman of the City. It is a curious situation that this body, which is to have a half say about the Museum of London, has 4,600 residents, and they will elect a council which will nominate governors. It also has 10,330 non-residents—the business vote. That is a ratio of more than two to one. Thus, the possibility of any democratic expression coming from the people living in the area is removed by the fact that the non-residents carry the bulk of the vote. That will be the new governance of the Museum of London.

There are ways of dealing with this matter. I am the last to try to destroy all historical vestiges. I believe that the concept of one third three times is too much and that we should have a small number of nominees to represent the ancient prerogatives and all that go with them. There are ways of dealing with the problem which could involve the people of London. They could be adopted during the unhappy, though short, future period until we return to power and restore proper government to London.

It was suggested in Committee on the Local Government Bill that ILEA could do the job. That idea was discarded, partly with contempt, when it was said that ILEA could not possibly speak for the people of London because it did not cover the whole area of London. We were told that important activities were provided for the benefit of the London region, the home counties and the hinterland which extended well beyond the boundaries of ILEA's jurisdiction. In other words, the responsibility could not be given to ILEA because it did not cover the whole of London or the hinterland.

It seems, however, that responsibility can be given to the City of London—at any rate, that half the governors can come from the small area of the City. That is nonsense. In Committee on this measure we should look again at the ILEA concept in this respect. As it is the nearest approach—it will also be an elected body from April—to a representative body for the people of London, and as it is integrally involved in the subject of the museum—the educational task of digging, recording and learning—it could fulfil the representative role in relation to the museum. Indeed, I cannot imagine a better definition of the process of education than to dig, record and learn. I hope, therefore, that we shall continue to consider ILEA as the representative body for the museum.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, if we are to involve everyone in the running of the museum, logically we should have representatives of tourists and representatives from my constituency, which is in the home counties, and all sorts of other people? It is important to have an efficient system—one that represents the bodies that are providing the finance—and then allow the museum to do its work, which it does admirably.

Nobody has argued that everybody should be represented. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) would take it amiss if I, from Glasgow, said that I wanted a say in the running of the Museum of London. I have said that running it should be a body that is representative of the people of London and that generously extends its activities to the home counties and the people who live there, such as the hon. Gentleman's constituents, and the hinterland.

We must strike a balance between having effective and democratic boards. We must have representative boards, but boards that can function. That is why I suggest that to achieve that the necessary appointments could be made to the ILEA.

If, as the Government said in Committee, we must pay due regard to the importance of the museum stretching its activities throughout the London region, we must consider some of the existing boroughs. Let us not forget that, in discussing the Local Government Bill, we were told that the GLC was being scrapped because it was an undemocratic body. It was to be replaced, we were told, by a marvellous democratic structure of the individual boroughs and district councils of London.

Here the Government have an opportunity to put their actions where their mouth is and involve some of the boroughs and districts. Those bodies could be asked to choose from among their members those who would represent the boroughs and districts. There would be no difficulty, except political pique, in doing that. It would be eminently sensible for the Government to do that, remembering that under the Local Government Bill the structures will be changing. I trust that that will also be examined in Committee. Our first complaint, therefore, is that the body that has been selected is not properly representative.

The hon. Gentleman has not dealt with the essential point that I raised. It is the Museum of London, not just for London. There are many thousands of people from all parts of the United Kingdom, and further afield, who benefit from learning about the history of London. The hon. Gentleman is not getting the balance right.

I look forward to hearing the hon. Gentleman moving amendments in Committee to get people from the hinterland and other areas round about on to the representative body. If he makes such a proposition, he will get a sympathetic hearing from my hon. Friends and me. We have here a Daniel come to judgment. Of course, it is not only a Museum of London, to be visited only by the people of London; people come from far and wide to learn from it.

If the Museum of London is to serve a purpose beyond those who live in the immediate area—and Greater London is a large area—we must consider another matter that is not dealt with in the Bill but which was raised in Committee on the Local Government Bill—namely, how free the museum will be in its actions on behalf of the people of London and the general public from near and far who visit it.

May we have a guarantee—I understand that in the past it has been left solely to the trustees; this has applied to museums and galleries—that the governors will not impose admission charges to this museum? Will the Government heed the advice of their supporters and not allow admission charges to be made?

We need to explore this question because the Government's record of admission charges at museums, galleries and some other national institutions has not been good, any more than the funding has been good. After all, the National Gallery had to be rescued by an American millionaire and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, because of a shortage of funding, had to be rescued by a £10,000 anonymous grant.

The Government are bringing shame on our national cultural institutions. It will help to redeem our honour if we say that no admission charges will be made at this museum, despite the fact that half the governors will come from the City of London. Indeed, their presence on that scale makes us fearful, for it represents the apotheosis of the cash nexus, and we fear that money will be valued more greatly than the establishment itself.

I stress that point because we have experience of what happens when charges are made. Curiously, the best example of that occurred at the Victoria and Albert museum. When the Prime Minister imposed admission charges—they were originally called voluntary charges; it was described as permissive legislation—certain changes in attendance came about at the Victoria and Albert. In January 1973, 91,000 people attended. In January 1974, in the first month of charges, the attendance figure dropped to 58,000—a fall of 36 per cent. In February 1973, 107,000 people attended. In February 1974, in the second month of charges, attendance dropped to 52,000—a collapse of 51·6 per cent. In March 1973, 130,000 attended. In March 1974, 66,000 people visited the Victoria and Albert—a collapse in attendance of 49 per cent.

Against that background, when we hear Conservative Members talk about the responsibilities and duties of the board of governors and the need to achieve a good board, we are concerned to avoid the portcullis of admission charges being imposed on this museum, be those charges so-called voluntary or otherwise.

I have spoken of some of the matters that we shall be discussing and pressing the Government about in Committee. I shall not ask my hon. Friends to vote against Second Reading. We recognise that this legislation flows from the far worse legislation on local government in general. As decent democrats, we shall consider this to be a consequence of that earlier legislation and try to rescue from the wreck something healthier in terms of the governance and funding of the Museum of London.

7.31 pm

Whether hon. Members share the view of Shelley that

"Hell is a city much like London"
or whether they prefer the alternative view of Dr. Johnson that
"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life",
the importance of London in our nation's history can neither be denied nor exaggerated. I hope that the House will agree with a definition made by a former Member of the House, Benjamin Disraeli, when he described London as
"a nation, not a city".
London is our nation, and whatever part of the country we represent we are all Londoners. That is why, as a Hampshire Member of Parliament, I am happy to intervene in the debate.

The Minister said that the need for the Bill arises as a consequence of the abolition of the GLC. Under the Bill one of the three godfathers—or perhaps, in theatrical terms, one should call them "angels"—will be removed. It would be logical to close ranks and to concentrate on the two surviving "angels". However, following the points made by the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), I should like to ask the Minister why the London boroughs have not been given a place among the governors of the Museum of London. Is it Government policy in London and elsewhere that the metropolitan boroughs and district councils should take over the role of patrons of the arts, which hitherto has been fulfilled by the GLC and the metropolitan counties? I must declare an interest as I am a ratepayer in the City of Westminster. I hope that the Minister will reply and say why that option was rejected. The proportion of their representation among the governors should not necessarily be a third, but at least the boroughs should have a presence.

I have a great regard for the Museum of London, as I visit it and respect it well. I hope that all hon. Members who have visited the museum will agree with the accolade offered to it in 1982 by Kenneth Hudson, who said:
"The museum is now generally regarded as one of the finest city biography museums in the world".
Anyone who has been abroad and seen museums that purport to be similar would agree with that accolade. The Museum of London should be regarded not only as a fine city museum but as a national museum, and it is proper that there should be a financial arrangement between the local authorities in London and central Government.

We can argue about the precise balance, and the Bill suggests that it should be 50 per cent each. All hon. Members will, I hope, agree that if, as I suggest, the London boroughs have a presence on the board of governors, they should make an appropriate financial contribution. I suspect that the Minister expects them to do so, anyway. I hope that they will, although that is not written into the Bill.

We must consider how such a museum should be run. I offer the House the sound advice given to me a few years ago by the director of one of our national galleries, who said that any great gallery or museum has three main purposes. The first is to maintain and improve standards, especially that of conservation. Secondly, it should promote scholarship and, thirdly, stage spectacle. Obviously, the fulfilment of those three objectives—standards, scholarship and spectacle—interplay upon each other. The balance of resources devoted to each will not only vary from one gallery or museum to another but will also vary within the same institution from time to time according to current requirements. In any board of governers such as the board of governers of the Museum of London, professional qualifications in the three objectives that I have mentioned should be reflected in the people nominated by the representative bodies.

Professionally, it is important that people within a great gallery or museum should have among them people to whom they can look for a lead. I can think of many people associated with art, archaeology, architecture and history, both political and social, who would be delighted if they were invited to give their services. That suggests to me that the Government and the City of London must be imaginative in formulating whom they invite to join.

Professionalism should be present among the governors as well as democratic representation, and there is no quarrel between myself and the hon. Member for Paisley, South on that score.

I also submit that the duties of such governors, both corporately and individually, require certain other skills. There are three that the House should consider. The first is supervision, although that is normally the day-to-day task of the staff of any museum or gallery. But in a week in which we had the sad news of what happened to the Algardi terracotta bust of Cardinal Zacchia in the Victoria and Albert museum—I doubt whether even the hon. Member for Paisley, South would claim that it should be paid for by voluntary charges—that makes my point about the need for supervision.

Had the museum administration perhaps been more sound, with only one man going up the ladder and one of the two people who sit at the damned cash boxes standing at the bottom, we might have saved that terracotta bust.

The hon. Gentleman is stretching his well-known views somewhat beyond what even a bust would carry—and a terracotta one at that.

The second skill is the ability to select. As is often the case with all good things, we can write down a range of priorities which in an ideal world we can pursue to the ultimate, but at any moment in time selection and balance is required. That would allow us to bring together the professionals so that we can get the balance right.

The third is inspiration. The governors of any institution must be known not only to the staff but also to the public, and the staff and the public must look to the board of the Museum of London for such inspiration. I am an old-fashioned soldier in these matters and believe in leading from the front. Therefore, the governors have a duty not only to attend board meetings and to be available in their own professions as scholars, but also to be seen and to be known. In effect, they are the embodiment of the museum. I hope that the bodies which appoint the governors will pay regard to those thoughts.

There are four outstanding problems facing the Museum of London. The first is the absence of a capital fund. On 21 October 1981, in evidence to the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts, the Museum of London said:
"It should be noted … that the Museum of London Act makes no provision for the Board to raise capital. It would be necessary, therefore, either for one of the contributing authorities to take on this burden, or for the sum to be raised by appeal".
The museum repeated the point later in its submission when it said:

"The capital and resource requirements are considerable. The Board have no power to raise capital and apparently little chance of persuading one of the contributing authorities to take on this function."
We should take the opportunity of the Bill to insist that, in one way or another, the museum should be equipped with capital-raising powers and, I hope, a capital fund. We all know that the ultimate masters in these matters are the Treasury mandarins. As it is early in the evening, I put no adjective in front of the words, but if it were later in the evening I could. The Treasury is never keen on capital because, as everyone knows, the Treasury mandarins are simple people, used to computer-based zero and one, and think purely in terms of cash flow—money going in and out. I have said before, and I repeat it about this issue, that the Treasury power is like having one's affairs run not by accountants but by book-keepers. The money is in and out on an annual cash flow. We must try to preserve the museum from the limitations of Treasury thinking, and equip it with some capital.

The second point, which comes out clearly in one report after another, is shortage of storage space. That again ties up with the size of building accommodation, but is itself a product of success because the more that a museum achieves, particularly with rescue archaeology, the more that it has to hand. The more that a museum is known and the more that the public institutions offer it objects the more obviously it has to have extra storage space.

The hon. Gentleman is making a characteristically thoughtful contribution. Does he not feel that one of the problems in the museum service generally is that museums store far too much? Is there not an advantage in having a shortage of space because it makes museums far more selective in what they take, and perhaps forces them to display far more? Is it not a shame that there is so much hidden away in vaults that people never see?

I agree with the hon. Member in part. We all know of galleries that have far too much hidden away when more should be on display. However, there is a grey area between what a museum obviously has to accept and what it obviously has to reject, and this particularly arises in rescue archaeology, out of which flow many representative objects. One does not wish to flood a gallery.

Let us take an example. In the British museum, those of us who are not experts on Greek pottery can still see an enormous number of Greek pots, but we do not necessarily want to see them all on display. However, the museum is keen to show them. I can see that in any gallery there is a problem of a certain largesse de richesse; but since the objects are valuable, one cannot just refuse or dismiss them.

The national galleries gain enormous advantage from the system of loans to the provincial galleries. I do not know the details of what is in store in the Museum of London, or whether it can be loaned to other museums in the outer London area that could benefit. If this is the policy that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is advocating, I agree with it.

My third point is about the pace of rescue archaeology. I quote again from the report of the Museum of London. It says:
"The pace of field archaeology is largely outside the Museum's control, in that it is determined by the state of the office property market and by other major developments such as gravel extraction and road construction."
In other words, it is difficult for a museum such as the Museum of London to plan its field archaeology because so much of it is rescue archaeology, which is determined by other people. The museum may have only a few months in which to do its work. It may have to move people from an existing project to get them on to a site on which they have only a short time for excavation.

Although this is a general problem, it is seen particularly vividly in the case of the Museum of London. I should be interested in the thoughts of my hon. Friend the Minister on this. I am glad that he is making arrangements for adequate financial support for rescue archaeology in London. Nevertheless, it is difficult to plan properly, given the uncertain nature of what has to be done.

My fourth point flows from my third. The recording of change in London life should also be contemporary. I again report from the museum's literature. It says:

"changes in other less publicised areas of London life are taking place which will lead to the obliteration of evidence of how London is now as completely as new office blocks will destroy the remains of the Roman period. At the moment, the only official provision to record the changing face of London, apart from the work of the Museum itself, is the recording of architectural monuments through the Royal Commission and the Historic Buildings Division of the Greater London council. That is the state that rescue archaeology was in fifteen years ago."
I have already discussed with my hon. Friend the Minister the example of the move of the old Covent garden market to the Nine Elms site. I have been told that the architecture is well documented but that the Department has not had the resources to get down the impressions of the people who worked and traded there. Such social history is most important and, with tape recorders, relatively cheap to record.

Another market moving has been Billingsgate. The old one has gone and we know from our experience with the Covent garden market that the environment and the atmosphere of the new market are different. Such things should be recorded, and it is relatively cheap so to do, but, because of lack of staff and resources, they are not so recorded.

I leave my four points, about the absence of the capital fund, the shortage of storage space, tying up with loans to other galleries, the pace of rescue archaeology, which makes planning difficult, and the recording of contemporary changing of London life, with my hon. Friend the Minister. I have detained the House too long, particularly for a Hampshire Member. I have said enough. I wish the Bill well, and the Museum of London even better.

7.47 pm

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for having called me, although I am aware that you have little choice.

I welcome the Minister to his first arts debate. These are rare occurrences and perhaps I should remind him that the fact that there are not double figures of attendance is not unusual. On the last occasion on which we had an arts debate, which was conveniently held on the day of the European elections, the Government suffered a humiliating defeat, by two votes to one, but went on governing none the less.

I listened with interest to the speeches made by the hon. Members for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) and for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price). I share the concern about charging for museum entrance and I was much taken with the sensible remarks of the hon. Member for Eastleigh about governing museums, although I am not sure whether ultimately some of the work that he prescribed for the governors is not best done by the curators. However, I shall not take up the hon. Gentleman on that point.

The Bill is necessary to tidy up a small part of the chaos created by the abolition of the GLC, and it has three main elements—the composition of the board, the finance of the museum, and the archaeological services. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I have legitimate concerns about all three of these points.

It is proposed to change the board's composition from three parts of six members to two parts of nine members, representing the City and the Prime Minister. What is predominantly wrong with that is that it increases the Prime Minister's patronage, and I think that she has quite enough power already. It could well serve to exclude the genuinely popular base that the museum has worked to cultivate. It includes no formal recognition of the legitimate interests of London as a whole in its own museum.

The museum has a constituency of about 8·5 million Londoners. They cannot be subsumed into the City or whomever is selected by the Prime Minister. The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, in Committee on the Local Government Bill, when arguing against the inclusion of the Inner London education authority on the board, which the ILEA would in fact have been unpleased to accept, claimed that the activities of the museum went far beyond those of ILEA. I do not believe that that point is adequately catered for by the proposals contained in the Bill. Further, I do not see how that proposal fits in which the Government's announced desire to devolve power to the boroughs as part of the reason for abolishing the GLC. We all know the reason why the Government wanted to abolish the GLC, and it was not that.

Above all, the GLC's abolition severs all formal relationship with the whole of Greater London, and I believe that an alternative is needed which will protect that status. Even if the proposals on composition are to stand, the question of how the nominees will be selected remains.

What the hon. Member for Eastleigh said was important. Not only people who have a knowledge of selection, history and archeology are needed, but also people who can stand up to the Government and argue, and people who have financial knowledge, perhaps divorced from all specific museum knowledge. I should like to know whether they will be chosen as members of a larger constituency. What is more important, how does the Bill ensure that the museum continues to work for the whole of London?

On finance, the Bill proposes a change from equal one third shares from each group represented on the board to equal halves. During the interim, the City has been contributing one third to the Government's two thirds. The Government's share comes from the Office of Arts and Libraries and will come from the money pledged to help replace what disappears with the GLC. I heard what the Minister said, but I want him to say clearly whether that is new money or whether that £700,000 was considered in the ball park figure for museums, or was it merely taken out of that general figure when it was realised that the Museum of London would need such an amount of money? Will the Minister tell me whether the City can afford that 50 per cent? Has it told the Minister that it can do so? What is the 50 per cent half of? Will it be half of whatever sum the board deems to be necessary, or will the board be able to budget for only twice what the Government decide as its figure?

I believe that museums need stability of funding, and am not sure that under the suggested formula it will get it. What type of financial security is the Minister promising, given that the amount to cover for abolition is set to decrease over the coming years? The proposed set-up is potentially damaging to the idea of accountability and the system of local attachment that existed before.

It is not for me to come springing to the Minister's defence, but in a way, the procedure whereby the Museum of London has been funded up to now was unsatisfactory because it had three bodies. The two always came in at the lowest bid, which would be the bid of the third. That was unsatisfactory for the Museum of London. It did not have the certainty over its funds that it should perhaps have had.

If one brings forth new legislation, one might bear in mind how unsatisfactory was the previous legislation and try to do better.

I understand that having only two partners could be fractionally better than having three, but I am still not convinced that asking the City of London to pay 50 per cent. is meaningful in the way that it is phrased.

The proposals are at odds with the Government's professed handing down of powers and responsibility to the boroughs where we were told they belonged. What are the provisions in respect of the museum's capital needs? If the Liberal party's alternative on the composition of the board were to materialise, we would make the appropriate adjustments to the funding. We believe in a relationship between taxation and representation. The hon. Member for Paisley, South talked about that. When he talked about one man, one vote, he clearly forgot what went on in the trade unions of which he is so fond. I should have thought that that would have been a strong argumemt for keeping quiet.

I wish to talk about archaeology, on which my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) pressed the Government several times during the passage of the Local Government Bill. He was worried that the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, to which the archaeological service seemed destined, was unsuitable because it was new and untried and designed to fund projects rather than organisations.

As I understand the Bill, the archaeological service will go to the Museum of London and the HBMC will be allowed to make grants to it under conditions chosen by the commission. Several questions arise. Is the HMBC to pay for all the unit's work, only specific projects or only those bits that it chooses? What will become of the permanent nature of the unit which is now intimately linked with the museum's entire work? Will that be adequately maintained? If the HMBC is not intended to pay for all the unit's work, presumably the rest is supposed to come from the extra Government money that we heard about last week. How much will that double earmarking leave for the rest of the museum's work? Was that extra cost taken into consideration when the extra money was being allocated? There are currently about 100 archaeologists employed by the unit. Will that substantial and respected organisation be adequately provided for by the Bill? What conditions will be attached to the grant? How long term is the deal?

We are seeking more information and substantial guarantees that the museum and the archaeological unit will not be casualties of the chaos following the GLC's abolition. It should be remembered that the GLC intervened in the case of the archaeology unit in 1982 only because there was erratic funding from other sources which could not sustain it with certainty.

London is said to have one of the best archaeological presences of any capital city. That must be sustained. We are interested in retaining the regional links that the museum has had by virtue of its board and funding. That has been essential to its nature.

The Minister said that the museum is secure. Over the years we have heard from the Government that the National Health Service is safe with them.

They have said that the arts need not worry. I had a maternity hospital at Wisbech, in my constituency. The Minister for Health came to my constituency and said that the maternity hospital was safe. After the election it was closed.

I hope that the Minister, whom I wish well, and for whom I have great respect, will write to me on some of the points that I have mentioned and will remember that, all in all, museums need endowments and guarantees of secure financial provision rather than enthusiasm on a Monday which wanes on Tuesday and disappears at the end of the week.

8 pm.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) claimed after my interventions that I accepted his argument, and therefore wanted a wider range of governors. Had he listened less selectively, he would have realised that logically my reasoning still pointed to the opposite as more realistic. I repeat for the hon. Gentleman's benefit that it is the Museum of London and not the museum for London. Home counties visitors, such as those from my constituency, would prefer effective management as the criterion rather than artificial geographical appointments.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South once again dogmatically criticised admission charges and cited the Victoria and Albert museum. In contrast, I should welcome such an approach, as exemplified by Sir Roy Strong, as a more realistic one. If it is to be the Museum of London rather than just for London, why should it not benefit from all its patrons, be they from home or abroad, to help ensure its future success?

The museum is about London, which makes it perhaps more relevant for Londoners than other museums within the capital. When the hon. Gentleman is encouraging the imposition of charges, or voluntary charges, is he aware that the Museum of London runs a large education programme? It receives large parties of visitors from the area which he represents, as well as from inner London. It would be a disadvantage to have charges, voluntary or otherwise, as their imposition could very well restrict schoolchildren's opportunities to visit the museum.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that in many charging schemes there are exceptions made for schoolchildren and the elderly. Such schemes often provide the opportunity free days. All these features should be considered. Anything that increases the finance that is available to safeguard our galleries and museums should be applauded by us all. Such matters should not become the subject of partisan and dogmatic arguments.

The Bill is further evidence of the commitment to the arts and heritage that has been so apparent since the Government came to power in 1979. Against a background of economic difficulty, the cultural sector has been well provided for. That should be appreciated fully rather than denigrated unfairly because of political malice.

Those who have visited the Museum of London will have been impressed by its dedication and its flair for giving London a unique historical perspective. It is a tribute to both the Government and the Corporation of the City of London that the importance of the museum is being reinforced and enhanced by the Bill.

I had the privilege recently of piloting a report through the choppy seas of the Council of Europe on the private sponsorship of the arts. Despite scuttling attempts by certain Left-wing would-be boarding parties, the recommendations gained safe haven although squalls continued beyond the harbour. Saint Saens once said:
"Art is a mystery—something which responds to a special sense, peculiar to the human race."
That is equally the case with the appreciation of the heritage. The Museum of London is a part of that appreciation, together with its excellent archaeological services.

The report which I presented to the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe surveyed the value of private sponsorship and the increasing significance that it can and should achieve. My recommendations called for greater encouragement of private sponsorship. Europe would do well to follow the lead of the Government, my hon. Friend the Minister and his predecessors.

The hon. Gentleman has spoken of his recommendation of greater private sponsorship and has congratulated the Government on their performance—a Government who are beginning to accept private sponsorship as a replacement for proper public funding and not as an adjunct to and support of it. Last week's statement on the funding of the arts was a disgrace. The Government's proposals are about £25 million short of what the Arts Council said that it needed and about £19 million short of what was needed to replace the moneys made available by the metropolitan counties and the GLC. In terms of central overall funding, they represented a 16 per cent loss. There is no great merit in increasing private subsidy percentage by percentage if we are allowing the basic fabric of our national institutions and the rest of our culture to decay under the cuts that they are suffering under the hon. Gentleman's Government.

I regret that once again the hon. Gentleman seems to be using his selective hearing. Surely he has heard, as I have, many Ministers say that there is such a thing as plural funding. I understand that that is what my hon. Friend the Minister wants to see for the arts and heritage. I recall from statements made to the House that the Government's spending on the arts has increased in real terms. That should be the subject of congratulation and not criticism.

I have referred to the report I piloted through the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, and the hon. Gentleman should be aware that some of his colleagues who sit on the Labour Benches in this place voted at one stage in favour of the report and later were against it. There is a necessity for some of his hon. Friends to get their thinking straight on this important subject for the sake of the arts and the heritage. I am sure that he will take these points on board in the friendliest fashion.

The City of London holds a unique place in both British and world history. It is one that is told effectively by the Museum of London. The City of London holds a unique place also in both British and world finance. It is one that is clear with respect to commerce and business, often the very companies that are providing vital sponsorship.

In supporting the Bill, I do so in recognition of the continuing value of museums such as the Museum of London to the cultural life of the country and to its economic life in terms of the tourist industry. In supporting the Government in their arts and heritage policies, I do so in recognition that a fair wind has been created that is far more realistic than the unwarranted and continual hoisting of storm cones by Opposition parties.

8.8 pm

I offer my sincere congratulations to my hon. Friend the Minister on his new appointment. His baptism was enshrined in a fine presentation of the Bill, a measure which on sober reflection will, I am sure, eventually be welcomed by those on both sides of the House.

I shall refer to two statements which have a great bearing and significance on and to the Museum of London. My hon. Friend has related with considerable clarity the excellence of the paper that he presented in Spain. I am glad that the Government have recently signed a Council of Europe convention on the protection of the heritage. That is good news for the heritage, culture and the museum service. The European conference focused on ways in which the heritage could be protected and conserved. The purpose of this debate is to present that information to the public.

Last Thursday, as reported at column 702, my hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts announced that the Government would grant £43 million extra from the Exchequer to make up the shortfall caused by the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan councils.

I was especially attracted to the excellent contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price), particularly his reference to the governing bodies. The Bill provides for the Corporation of the City of London to make nine appointments to the Board. Nine appointments are within the Prime Minister's gift, as outlined in clause 1. That is the way forward for this excellent museum.

I believe from my recent experiences in the museum that the Bill presents a tremendous opportunity to take a further step forward, especially with respect to archaeological rescue, research and display. I was privileged in the past two weeks to go to York where I saw an excellent display. I hope that the City of London will hold such an exhibition.

I am sad that the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) bitterly attacked the City of London. It was not in keeping with the normally gracious and charitable way in which he presents the case for the Opposition. I am sure that in the depth of his soul he has as much love for Paisley abbey as I have. I hope that we can convert him to the beauties of the City of London.

There has been considerable debate on clause 3. The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) referred to the long-term and short-term funding guarantees that should be given. I unashamedly say to my hon. Friend the Minister that I wish to associate myself with those remarks. I hope that my hon. Friend will respond.

Conservative Members have become dedicated disciples of the concept of funding for the arts by the private sector. It would be a privilege to see those items that are stored in the bowels of the museum, which the public hardly ever see. I believe that 70 per cent or 80 per cent of the exhibits are never put on display except in travelling exhibitions. I believe that certain items owned by the museum of London and the other museums could, with satisfactory security facilities, be put on display and be sponsored privately by companies and institutions. Excellent exhibitions have resulted from sponsorship of the arts by the public sector, as we have seen in Manchester.

I am sure that hon. Members have noted the new vision and enthusiasm in archaeology. One is almost tempted to use the expression "the industry" of archaeology. I do not represent London or the home counties, but I know that many of my constituents on visits to London are delighted with what they see in the Museum of London. Their visit is also educational. Recently, some archaeological work was done in the constituency which I have the honour and privilege to represent. Work has been conducted at Montgomery castle, Stafford castle and in the celestial town of Dudley at Dudley castle. I believe that discoveries in those areas could eventually find a place in the museum of London.

I wish the Bill godspeed. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh and the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East I wish the museum of London continued success. It is a jewel in our heritage.

8.18 pm

The Bill is yet one further consequence of the abolition of the GLC—not a matter of major significance, given the problems associated with abolition, but an important one. Clearly a number of hon. Members note the museum's significance in terms of London's cultural heritage. The Bill to abolish the GLC, which will mean the ending of nearly 100 years of citywide local government in London, was forced through Parliament to satisfy the Prime Minister's personal wishes.

I shall not allow the House to escape without hearing me say a few more words about the GLC's abolition, which is a subject about which I feel deeply. Abolition was opposed by all independent, objective and authoritative sources. More importantly, it was opposed, and remains opposed, by an overwhelming majority of Londoners.

In Britain today, with the elective dictatorship in full cry, such considerations count for nothing in the mind of the Prime Minister, whose vindictive response to the Labour administration at county hall is best summed up in the words of the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), who said on 14 March 1984:

"The Labour party is the party of division. In its present form it represents a threat to the democratic values and institutions on which our parliamentary system is based.
The GLC is typical of this new, modern, divisive version of socialism. It must be defeated. So we shall abolish the GLC."
That is the truth of the matter. To base such sweeping changes in the structure of local government in England on an act of party political spite vividly reveals the depths to which the modern Conservative party has sunk.

The Bill represents one of the less traumatic consequences of the abolition of the GLC, but the same cannot be said for the overall impact on the arts in London. No one can accurately predict the scale of damage to the arts, but equally no one can deny that the arts will be the poorer for the abolition of the GLC.

The hon. Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn) paid tribute to the Minister when he said that the Government had provided an extra £43 million from the Exchequer to take up the shortfall through abolition. That is not new money, and the hon. Gentleman must be aware of the fact.

It is not sufficient either, because the Arts Council estimated that about £44 million was required to replace all the GLC and metropolitan county council expenditure on the arts. The Government have offered £25 million. There is a £19 million shortfall. There is no way in which local authorities, either boroughs in London or districts in the rest of the metropolitan areas, will be able to make up that shortfall. They are penalised and many of them are rate-capped because they are Labour authorities. In the circumstances, one cannot be optimistic about the future of the arts following abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan counties.

The Minister and his predecessor have given more than they set out to give and we should be thankful for it, but we do not have to be grateful because that money will not replace that which is presently expended by the GLC and the metropolitan counties on the arts. We acknowledge that more has been provided that was previously envisaged, but one does not have to be grateful because a lot more than that has been taken away.

The arts in London are threatened by the abolition of the GLC. The threat runs from the GLC South Bank to theatres such as the riverside, the Half Moon and the Theatre Royal, Stratford. Their future is fraught with dangers and uncertainties. Regional parks such as Burgess park and Mile End park are being developed by the GLC. There is no way that they will be completed by their respective boroughs of Southwark and Tower Hamlets because the resources are not there. After all, why should boroughs fund out of their own ratepayers' resources facilities that benefit the region as a whole? They will say that it is something for London as a whole and that London should pay for it. They will say, "How can we, with our scant resources, pay for facilities for the rest of London?" That is a natural human approach that any council would adopt when faced with the financial strictures imposed by central Government.

The classic example of the Government's irresponsibility with regard to abolition is seen in the confusion that surrounds waste disposal in London. Some might say that it is tangential to the Bill. If hon. Members spent more time going round the Museum of London, they would see exhibits showing the way in which the capital city's pattern of waste disposal has developed over the years. We owe a great deal to the Victorians in London for their foresight, skill and ingenuity. We have been living off that for far too long. What worries me is that we are squandering assets we inherited and not building on them. But that is another economic argument about infrastructure. From whatever point one starts, one can always come back to where one wishes.

All informed opinion inside and outside the waste disposal industry has paid tribute to the efficiency of the GLC's operation, one of the biggest and best in the world. However, 133 days are left until the sad demise of the GLC. I am sure that hon. Members will have noticed that we have put up a poster over County hall with the countdown to zero day. With 133 days left, we still do not have a satisfactory arrangement for waste disposal in London. Perhaps people will not be excited by that. It is not the sexiest of political issues, but it would be a matter of great concern to all of us if we found that there was chaos and confusion surrounding waste disposal.

I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman's argument, but there are two things that concern me that he does not seem to want to explain. One is that the abolition of the GLC was put clearly to the people of London, who helped to elect the Conservative Government. He seems to dismiss the democratic element, which I am surprised about. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman exhibits great concern, as I think we all do, about safeguarding the arts and our heritage in our capital city, yet pushes to one side the obvious means by which extra finance can be obtained—private sponsorship of the arts and admission charges. If we are all genuinely interested in safeguarding the arts and our heritage, we should look for other ways in which to bring in that finance. To help us, will the hon. Gentleman comment on both issues?

Of course. I do not believe that the abolition of the GLC motivated voters throughout the country to vote for the Conservative Government, so I do not see how the abolition of the GLC should be so central to the Government's programme, whereas the abolition of the rating system, which the Prime Minister also pushed forward as a manifesto pledge in 1979, should be abandoned.

It must be made clear that abolition of the GLC is not supported by the majority of Londoners. All that we have said throughout is that, if the Government feel that the GLC is such a markedly unpopular institution, let the people of London decide at the ballot box. The hon. Gentleman may recall that there was nothing in the 1983 Conservative manifesto about abolition of the GLC elections, yet that was pushed through the House by use of the elective dictatorship. I cannot believe that many people in London would have voted for that if it had been spelt out in the Conservative manifesto.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to private sponsorship of the arts. As a former chairman of the arts and recreation committee of the GLC, I did not spurn the opportunity to get my hands on a bit of capitalist gold. I can assure the hon. Gentleman of that. Equally, I was realistic enough to know that it never could, and never will, replace disinterested public investment, sponsorship and financing of the arts. The hon. Gentleman and some of his colleagues place too great store by the amount of money that the arts can raise through private sponsorship. It can be a top-up, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) has said, it seems that many Conservative Members are beginning to see private sponsorship as the major source of funding for the arts, not just topping on the cake, as it were.

I could go on at great length and with increasing enthusiasm about the case to be made against the Government abolishing the GLC. Suffice it to say that anyone who claims that abolishing the GLC will improve the efficiency of local government in London or the quality of life of its citizens is either a bigot or a fool.

The most objectionable element in the Bill is clause 1, amending the Museum of London Act 1965. One of the veterans of the Committee on the Local Government Bill, the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn), wandered into the Chamber a little while ago. He heard some of the arguments and then quickly retreated, which was a pity, because we had a good debate in Committee. In Committee both the Labour and Liberal parties were agreed that the City corporation was not appropriate to represent the interests either of London as a whole or of democratic local government in London. My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) spelt out some of our objections, and he could have mentioned many more of them. When the Royal Commission was reporting on the lead-up to the Local Government Act 1963 it said that logic had its limits and the City of London lay outside of them. It certainly does in local government terms.

My hon. Friend mentioned the business vote, which has been abolished everywhere except for the City, and aldermen, who have been abolished elsewhere in local government except in the City. Worse still, they are elected for life. If I had risen from my usual Back Bench position, to which I shall depart soon after my speech, and had maintained that GLC members should be elected for life, there would have been a hint of opposition from Tory Members. Clearly, the City is not the appropriate repository of responsibility for the Museum of London.

The museum is primarily concerned with the history of London and Londoners. If the corporation and the Government share the costs, there will be a natural tendency for the definition of London to be narrowed towards the one square mile and its immediate environs, rather than expanded. Anyone who knows the history of London recognises that that one square mile is rich in history, but incomplete, if one wishes to show the history of the London area covered by today's GLC.

The presence of governors on the board, who are nominated by the GLC, has provided that essential Londonwide dimension to the affairs of the museum I well remember my first visit, as the chair of the GLC arts and recreation committee, when I commented on the lack of exhibits relating to the history of London's trade union movement. The director said that he thought I would raise that point. That is not good enough. Too often we ignore the history of the working class whose skills and suffering have provided the basis on which the enormous wealth of our City rests.

Will my hon. Friend pay warm tribute to the Labour History Museum which is doing an excellent job preserving the important records of the Labour movement? The sad thing about the working class is that, having spent a great deal of time acquiring their own records, they hide them away or allow them to moulder. Would it not be nice to get an input of state money for something as important as that?

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend, especially when one considers the museums in London, such as the war museum, the natural history museum, the British museum and the science museum, and their resources. Why do we not have a nationally funded national museum of labour, because it is on the efforts and skills of labour that the wealth of the country is based? When, in two or three years' time, my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South is the Minister with responsibility for the arts, I hope that he will remember this evening and ensure that funds are available. I am sure that we shall be present to remind him.

Since that visit, things have improved at the museum in respect of my criticism. I join the Minister in paying tribute to the director, Max Hebditch, and his staff, and particularly to the governors, whom the GLC nominated to it. They are Mr. John Gorman, Sir Ashley Bramall, Mr. Willie Bell, who is a solid Right-wing Conservative member of the GLC—we are ecumenical in that sense—Mr. Louis Bondy, Mr. Michael Wheeler, another Conservative member of the GLC and Mr. Richard Nicholls. When they have gone, will the museum slip back to its previous limited vision of London's history? Since Ministers will make the nominations, will the Minister tell me when he replies whether he will consider keeping on some of those governors, who have contributed so much to the museum?

If the museum is to be for the whole of London and to maintain links with the truly democratic structure of local government in London, governors should come from the broader local government structures of London, for example from the Inner London education authority. Indeed, is there any reason why they should not come from the two main borough groupings—the London Boroughs Association and the Association of Labour Authorities? The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price) said that the boroughs should be represented, and I hope that the Minister will consider the views being put to him this evening, and that in Committee we can write them into the Bill. That is important, and we shall wish to press for it.

One of the more intriguing aspects of abolition has been the way in which the City corporation has been prepared to assume Londonwide responsibilities, almost as though it is trying to build insurance policies against the future. It is not yet settled which authority will assume responsibility for Hampstead Heath, but the City was at one stage keen to have it within its area of responsibility. The City has taken over the London Public Record Office, and, clearly, will take over the London end of the Museum of London. Recently, when, as chairman of the GLC, I addressed the Court of Common Council in the Guildhall, I remarked on how intriguing it was to see the City assuming Londonwide responsibilities.

The Opposition believe that the City, as it is presently constituted, cannot and must not be the voice of London. It is important to people in London because after abolition, London will be the only capital city in western Europe without a citywide administration and voice. The corporation is neither qualified nor authorised to speak for the boroughs and the 7 million people, as the GLC does now, however rich are its history and traditions.

I marvel at the City's ability to survive. One can learn many lessons from it, and sometimes I wish that we had learnt them at County hall. But the City knows that the abolition of the GLC threatens its long-term future in terms of its boundaries and structures. As the last chairman of the GLC, for the time being, I look forward to the day when I shall attend the great show of the new lord mayor of all London elected by a Court of Common Council, itself elected by a universal franchise of Greater London voters. My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South suggests that he might be me, but he most certainly will not be me. I have had my work cut out during the past two years trying to keep things together at County hall, and I shall be glad to lay down that burden. However, I shall certainly look forward to the day when there will be a lord mayor who can speak for all of London, not for the few thousand people in the square mile.

That cannot be done on the present structure of the City of London, which is why this part of the Bill is so objectionable. When the Court of Common Council represents all 7 million Londoners and the lord mayor is the lord mayor of all London, the City will have fulfilled its historic destiny, which it repudiated on three separate occasions during the 19th century. The City managed to see off Mr. Gladstone, but I do not believe that it will see off Prime Minister Kinnock. We cannot accept that the City of London and the Government should carve tip the running of the Museum of London between them and, in Committee, we shall press for an alternative.

One sees clearly that the Government's share of the funding will go up by one third to one half and that increased Government financial support will come from the money earmarked for abolition costs. But will this money be fully earmarked? Will it be fully guaranteed? This money will come out of the £17 million provided for museums. Will the Government's contribution come out of the £17 million—the money that they spend now arid their share of the GLC—or only from what they are taking from the GLC? This is a nice point, but it is crucial to museums and art galleries throughout London and the metropolitan county councils. I hope that the Minister will say that only the extra amount is to come out of the £17 million, and not the total Government contribution.

How will future moneys be settled? Will there be an annual settlement? Will the arrangement be similar to the present system when the Government and the City of London treasurers sit down and work out between them what they can afford? Whoever can afford to pay the least will effectively determine what the others pay. That is the way it works at the moment and that is why, in an intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud), I said that it is an unsatisfactory arrangement. The arrangement has some weaknesses at the moment but the hon. Gentleman is quite right to say that the Bill gives the Minister the opportunity to improve matters, perhaps by introducing greater certainty regarding the funding of the Museum of London.

Can the museum expect to receive levels of funding similar to those currently provided by the GLC or will the Government be looking for some reductions?

I wish now to comment on a couple of points raised by the hon. Member for Eastleigh. The first is the absence of a capital fund for the Museum of London. Funding bodies just provided revenue grants to the museum. Not having a capital fund was a disadvantage. How many museums have capital funds at the moment? Where would they get the capital assets from?

The GLC wanted to endow museums and art galleries with a capital fund, but local authorities had enormous difficulties with their own capital allocations. We were able to increase the revenue grant to arts bodies but we always had a problem on the capital side.

The hon. Member for Eastleigh mentioned the shortage of space. One reason for the shortage of space at the Museum of London is that it is an island site and there is little room to expand unless it moves into the Barbican. The Museum of London might have been better sited somewhere else, where there was room to expand, where the land was somewhat cheaper, where access was better and where the site was more central.

It would be better used as a museum for London than as a hotel patronised by wealthy American tourists.

I do not believe that turning the South Bank into a hotel complex would bring more money into the arts. I do not think that tourists will keep coming to London to look at other hotels. We must try to preserve the arts that we have and not dismantle them, which I fear will be one of the consequences of abolition.

Museums tend to be greedy when it comes to storage space. They snap up items even if they do not have space to exhibit the material. There is probably more material not on display than on display. It is a matter of growing concern for people interested in the museum service.

The hon. Member for Eastleigh also mentioned oral history. The GLC had a wonderful exhibition at the royal festival hall at which we encouraged Londoners to record history on tape. There was a marvellous take-up by our elderly citizens. They wanted to sit there and talk, and they produced a wonderfully valuable resource. Through the Minister, the Government should be prepared to devote far more resources to strengthening and developing oral history, because that is how to record the history of ordinary men and women, whether in the city or in the country. Our history tends to be about victories of great generals, kings and queens, rather than those who carried the burdens upon which those victories were built.

I took the examples of Covent garden and Billingsgate. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, when asked what life was like when they were six or seven years old, elderly people tend to ramble? However, if the interviewer concentrates on an event or an experience, such as asking what it was like unloading ships with a hook and tackle, he will get a much more specific reply. That was my point, as, with such questions, much of the architecture and political history is recorded. It is social history of which we are so short.

The imperial war museum is good at that. One does not invite somebody to ramble on with a microphone under their nose but has skilled people directing an interview, because they know what information they are trying to get. Such a process produces enormously valuable historical information.

Most hon. Members will agree that some of the most interesting history is that recorded in diaries. Diaries written by ordinary people about day-to-day events are universally popular because we can relate to the authors far more than to massive battles and great state occasions of which few of us have much experience.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Eastleigh mentioned Covent garden again. I hope he will pay due tribute to the GLC for its restoration of Covent garden. We saved it from the previous Conservative Administration which wanted to raze it to the ground and turn it into a national exhibition centre surrounded by six-lane highways. Covent garden is now one of the most thriving tourist centres in London. It might be getting a little too twee for my liking, but the GLC has managed to preserve it. Problems will arise with Covent garden as Westminister and Camden, two local authorities that are poles apart politically and ideologically, try to run it—another problem arising out of the abolition of the GLC.

I do not want to detain the House any longer. I am grateful for having been given this rare opportunity to have advanced so close to the Dispatch Box. I feel safer and more at home on the Back Benches and no doubt that is where I shall spend most of my life in this place. We do not intend to divide the House—I detect that we have not the necessary troops to do so—but we shall try to make several amendments in Committee.

8.49 pm

I am encouraged by the two-hour debate we have had on the arts. Against the background of the Bill we have had a broad-ranging debate. Over only the past week I made a statement to the House last Thursday, I answered questions for 10 minutes to a packed House on Monday and now we have had this debate. That demonstrates the enormous interest that there is in the arts in general and in our culture. If I may repeat what I said, it goes far beyond day-to-day politics. The subject is of fundamental importance to our way of life, our culture, heritage and history. As a new Minister for the Arts I have found the debate fascinating.

I do not want to reopen old wounds from last night's debate, but I do not think that it would have done Parliament any harm if this discussion had been shown on television. It might have been of interest to Londoners who will be affected by the Bill. However, I had better not go further on that, or I shall be in trouble.

There have been interesting speeches, not all of which I agree with, but all the points made are well worth taking on board. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price) made a fascinating and thoughtful speech. I noted carefully what he said; I shall try to comment on some of the points and I shall write to him about the others. My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) talked with great passion about the sponsorship scheme which could affect the revenue of the Museum of London. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn) spoke, too, with great feeling about the Bill and about conservation in general. I am grateful to him for what he said.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) referred to two key points on which I shall comment in a moment. I must put the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) straight. I do not want to start a fresh debate about the Greater London council, but let there be no shadow of doubt that our commitment to abolish the GLC and the metropolitan counties was clearly stated in our manifesto of 1983. It is there, and stares me in the face. I will not read it to the House, but I want to put it firmly on record that the commitment is there. I shall try to answer the questions posed by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud), who takes a close interest in the arts.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh and the hon. Member for Paisley, South were concerned about the composition of the board of governors and the structure that will govern the running of the Museum of London. I take the point that there is concern because we are eliminating the GLC element. I have been asked what the role of the successor authorities is to be. I have been saying consistently over the last few days that I look to the successor authorities to play a full and constructive part, in conjunction with central Government, in supporting and encouraging the arts.

I hope that what I say will be of help to the House. Against the background of the history of the Museum of London and its connection with the City, as well as its connection with a much wider area, it is obvious that we are dealing with a special institution. My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield said that its interests went much wider than Greater London. I agree with that view. Therefore, it was necessary to take decisive action about its longer-term prospects.

The arrangements proposed in the Bill, which will allow the City to play a prominent part because of its long historical connection and which will also allow central Government to play a prominent role, are right. It would be difficult in addition to institutionalise the 32 boroughs into the longer-term arrangements. However, in the longer term I hope that the boroughs which are interested in the services provided by the Museum of London will feel able to play their part in providing additional funding. There is no reason why they should not do that. I am not sure whether the hon. Member was suggesting that the 32 boroughs should be institutionalised into the longer-term arrangements.

I take seriously the views put forward about the composition of the board of governors. The point was made that it should reflect the interests not only of the City, which obviously the corporation will undertake with its nine nominees, but of greater London. The present board of governors is made up of a distinguished group of people. With the changes in composition, the breadth of experience and knowledge will cover a wider area than the City. The views of the community, which will no doubt be reflected in the successor authorities, should be taken carefully into account. The Prime Minister will have power to appoint nine of the 18 governors. I assure the House that the views put forward today will be considered seriously. I hope to overcome the anxieties that have been expressed.

I was not here for the whole debate, but I understand the Minister's personal views on these matters. Does he not realise that the arrangements which he is attempting to defend are an affront to those of us in the London borough of Newham, where, because of an initiative by the Museum of London, there is to be a dockland museum? Indeed, already in my constituency there is a collection relating to the hard work in the docklands to which the hon. Member for Eastleigh has referred. We will have an institutional mess because there has been no proper provision in the Museum of London for Londonwide participation. Because of the dissolution of the GLC, which is the responsibility of the Prime Minister, the position is ironic. Therefore, I endorse the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) about the inappropriateness of the City as a final and long-term repository for this responsibility.

I acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman's borough of Newham has a close interest in the Museum of London. I was seeking to say earlier that it would be difficult to institutionalise an arrangement in which all the 32 successor authorities of London were involved in the arrangement. A problem of great complexity could arise.

The hon. Member for Paisley, South was consistent in his view about admission charges, and it is right that I should respond to that point. The board of governors of the Museum of London will have a discretion, as other trustees and boards of governors have for museums elsewhere. He may disagree with it, but that is the factual position. In my view, the discretion should be with the local bodies, so that they may decide for themselves whether in their particular circumstances it would be worth trying an experiment, either by means of voluntary donations or by admission charges, in the manner of the National Maritime Museum, with a view to finding out whether, in addition to the basic funding that the Government will continue to give to the museum, they can raise extra revenue. I believe that it is right in those circumstances to allow the choice to be made by the trustees.

We have reached a sharp engagement of values and of conscience on this question. Surely anything that reduces entry to a museum or gallery can be seen only as an enemy of education.

When museums and galleries begin to make charges, having been encouraged to do so, surely any Minister will begin to re-evaluate his grants to them.

The important point to recognise is that the museums are not in the ownership of the Government. They are trustees for the public good, and the right to make charges should not be given to the governors.

I respect the view that the hon. Gentleman holds with great passion and consistency. As he rightly anticipated, we shall have to disagree.

There is no central direction from the Government that there should be admission charges in museums. The question must be for them to decide. If they determine, after a period, that admission charges are not leading to a general improvement in their services, or have resulted in a reduction in the number of visitors, it is for the board of governors and trustees to decide whether to continue with the experiment.

After only two and a half months in my present post, I am conscious that I cannot go round the country telling museums, galleries and other arts bodies that they must go flat out to raise extra revenue, and then punish them for so doing. They must not be penalised if they respond to the encouragement to raise extra revenue. That is precisely why I am looking at how we should treat the revenue and receipts of museums. It is fair to say that under the present system they are penalised when they seek to raise extra resources. The hon. Members for Paisley, South and for Newham, North-West and I disagree about whether museums and boards of governors and their trustees should have the freedom to determine what to do, and there is a legitimate point of difference between us. I take on board the point about encouraging rather than discouraging authorities when they wish to raise extra revenue.

In the context of the Bill and the arrangements for the Museum of London, is the Minister prepared to tell us that the Corporation of the City of London will give the same guarantee as he will?

We shall have to discuss that with the City Corporation, but we are now anticipating something that may not happen. I do not know whether the Museum of London governors will decide that they wish to introduce voluntary or compulsory charges. That is a matter for them.

Let me complete my remarks so that we can understand each other.

We must give every encouragement to museums to help themselves but in such a way that they are not penalised for doing so. Therefore, we must maintain basic funding on the taxpayers' behalf. I make that commitment for the Museum of London and for other museums.

My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) mentioned sponsorship. We should not under-estimate the role that business sponsorship can play, especially when it is pooled with taxpayer and local authority funding and that of the media and television, which is substantial. I do not suggest that business sponsorship is a gigantic proportion of the total funding of the arts, but it is growing and it can play a part. My hon. Friend is right to say that business sponsorship can play a constructive part, because it has a multiplier effect. In the first year of operation, the new Government business sponsorship incentive scheme has operated successfully. It has raised £5,500,000£4 million from business and £1·5 million from the taxpayer. That shows what the scheme can achieve. If the Museum of London, or other arts bodies, wish it, there is nothing to stop them from tapping business resources as a way of supplementing arts support. I am a great believer in the diversity of resources for the arts. It is not healthy to be dependent on one source.

Many points have been raised, but I do not wish to weary the House, so I shall reply by letter to some of the more specific points. However, the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) asked who decides the total budget for the Museum of London. The position for the Museum of London is similar to that for other museums. They prepare annual budget proposals, submit them to the Government and, in the London museum's case, to the City. The Government and the City jointly agree the total budget that we judge can be afforded and, as provided in the Bill, each pays half. The arrangements will feature in the annual budget that I shall announce in December.

The previous experience was that, whichever of the three parties was least able to afford an amount, that party's minimal amount was made up in equal parts by the other two. Will the Minister give an assurance that if, in not unprecedented generosity, the City of London were to find a substantial sum, the Government would match it? That is what 50 per cent means.

Certainly we must, because a 50: 50 arrangement is provided for in the Bill. However, there is an upper ceiling on my budget, so it would have to be the subject of discussion. Expenditure on the museum this year is about £4 million, which means that we all pay one third, or about £1,350,000 each. We shall have to make an arrangement to ensure continual adequate funding for the museum which, no doubt, will require lengthy discussions with the City.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh discussed borrowing powers for the museum. I can expand on this matter in a letter, but I must stress that none of the museums or galleries has powers to borrow money for capital developments. We are not only talking about the problems of the Museum of London. However, the Government will meet their share of annual capital expenditure on approved projects. As my hon. Friend knows, that is usually done through the Votes. I am considering the matter in the context of next year's budget.

The fact that the others have not done so is no reason for not starting now. We must have an experiment; why not start with the Museum of London? Although this is not the occasion to do it, I would argue the case for introducing other sources of money, especially through the business sponsorship scheme. That makes the case stronger for equipping all such bodies with capital resources.

I note what my hon. Friend says. He has raised a wider issue, but one of considerable importance—

I am responding to my hon. Friend's point.

In supporting the Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West mentioned the importance of the Council of Europe convention on the protection of architectural heritage. I am sure that he had in mind the Museum of London Bill when he mentioned it. The United Kingdom Government signed the convention at a conference in Spain. As my hon. Friend knows, the convention deals with the recording, preservation, conservation and presentation of our heritage. The United Kingdom already does that which the convention requires, and I hope that other nations will follow our lead.

Although I have not answered all the points raised in this important debate, I hope that hon. Members will accept my written replies. I hope that the House is now confident enough to give the Bill a Second Reading. The board of governors of the Museum of London met today and confirmed its full support for the Bill, including the provisions on archaeology. That is a good basis upon which to move forward. With that in mind, I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Ordered,

That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of Seven Members, Four to be nominated by the House and Three by the Committee of Selection.

Ordered,

That there shall stand referred to the Select Committee—
  • (a) any Petition against the Bill presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office not later than 28th November 1985, and
  • (b) any Petition which has been presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office and in which the Petitioners complain of any amendment as proposed in the filled-up Bill or of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the said Committee,
  • being a Petition in which the Petitioners pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents.

    Ordered,

    That if no such Petition as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) above is presented, or if all such Petitions are withdrawn before the meeting of the Committee, the order for the committal of the Bill to a Select Committee shall be discharged and the Bill shall be committed to a Standing Committee.

    Ordered,

    That any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Select Committee shall, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of his Petition, be entitled to be heard by himself, his Counsel or Agents upon his Petition provided that it is prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard by his Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition.

    Ordered,

    That the Committee have power to report from day to day the Minutes of Evidence taken before it.

    Ordered,

    That Three be the Quorum of the Committee.—[Mr. Neubert.]