Clause 2. — (Transfer to Board of Colections of London and Guildhall Museums and Benefit of Certain Funds.)

Part of Orders of the Day — MUSEUM OF LONDON BILL [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th May 1965.

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Photo of Mr James Ramsden Mr James Ramsden , Harrogate 12:00 am, 10th May 1965

Neither my hon. Friends nor I would wish to question the need for the Amendment, but we might try to elicit a little more information from the Financial Secretary as to why the way in which he is seeking to amend the Bill differs from his intentions—as we understood them—as expressed to us in Committee.

In Committee I asked the Financial Secretary what would be the effect upon the Bill of the creation of the new post of Minister for the Arts. I asked how it was proposed to give effect to the transfer of functions. The hon. and learned Member told the Committee that the Transfer of Functions Order would take care of that, although at the time this matter was discussed in Committee the Order had not been laid. In the event the Transfer of Functions Order had no reference to the matters with which the Bill is concerned, and the hon. and learned Member was good enough to write me a letter to explain why he intended to proceed by way of amending the Bill rather than do what it was necessary to do through the Order.

I admit that when I got his letter—and it was courteous of him to write to me—I wondered whether the reason for his change of plan was that it would not be as easy as he at one time thought, in Committee, to do through the Order some of the things that he wished to do. I asked him whether it would he possible, had he used the Transfer of Functions Order, to retain in the Bill some of the functions with the Treasury and to allow others to pass to the Ministry of Education. He assured me that this would be quite possible, although it was a little difficult to see how effect could possibly be given to that intention through the Order.

However, in the event—as I understand the Amendments—the Government seek to transfer all the functions. I thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman could have given the House a little more information why it had been decided to do this. It struck all of us in Committee that it was his intention at that time to keep some of the functions with the Treasury. He mentioned the interests of the Greater London Council and those of the Corporation of the City of London and said that they might be concerned about the method by which this was eventually to be done. He gave us reason to think that they might also be concerned about the desirability of some of the functions remaining with the Treasury. I think that the House would like to know why it is that the hon. and learned Gentleman has decided to make a clean sweep and transfer them all. We should be obliged to the Financial Secretary if he could clear this up.

I have seen, in a previous incarnation, some of the politics which lie behind these museums, and they are very intriguing. One might even go so far as to say that the politics of a museum are sometimes as intriguing as the exhibits on its shelves. I am probably not very wide of the mark when I deduce in the Financial Secretary's change of mind since the Committee stage a certain amount of manoeuvring behind the scenes and a certain amount of disagreement and, perhaps, eventual compromise. I think that the House would like to know what has happened, and whether all the parties concerned are satisfied with the outcome, and are satisfied with what will be the final result if we pass these Amendments—that is, the complete transfer to the Secretary of State for Education and Science of the functions concerned.

The hon. and learned Gentleman also owes the House an assurance over the financing of expenditure by this museum now that the Treasury's functions have passed to the Secretary of State. I take it that, if these Amendments are passed, the Government's responsibility for finding their share of the various expenses of the museum will no longer be borne on the Treasury Vote, but will have to be borne on the Vote of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State already has a very large Vote. It is something over £100 million—perhaps the Financial Secretary could tell us exactly—and it is one which, in the normal course of events, comes under very close scrutiny year by year in the Treasury. There are even occasions—there was a recent controversial occasion—when the Vote is reduced. I refer to the minor works expenditure. What the House would like to be assured about—I am sure that this also applies to the Greater London Council and the Corporation of the City of London—is that this expenditure will not be prejudiced by being transferred to the Vote of the Secretary of State for Education and Science. I think that the House and those concerned with the museum would like a very clear and explicit assurance that this expenditure, when the estimate has been made under Clause 15, will be held and considered separately from the global total of the Vote of the Secretary of State. I think that the House should have that assurance.

This next question may display my ignorance, but I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman can enlighten me. How is it that we know when we amend the Bill to read "Secretary of State" instead of "Treasury" that the Secretary of State will be the Secretary of State for Education and Science? I have heard it held constitutionally that all Secretaries of State are one and the same person, and the answer may be connected with that fact. But as it is the Government's clear intention to make this matter the responsibility of one specific Ministry, it would be interesting to know why that could not have been stated in so many words.

With those few words I sit down, and as far as I am concerned the hon. and learned Member has leave to reply if he wishes to do so.