Clause 5. — (Power of Board to Acquire and Dispose of Objects.)

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 Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West 12:00 am, 10th May 1965

I beg to move, in page 3, line 45, to leave out from "collections" to the end of line 2 on page 4.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

I think it would be convenient to discuss with this Amendment the next Amendment, in page 4, line 7 to leave out subsection (4).

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

The object of this Amendment really is to explore the Government's mind and to see whether or not in fact the words that I am proposing to leave out are superfluous. It would appear that if, according to the wording of the Clause, the Board decided to dispose of an object it is hardly necessary to include all these words about the reasons for so doing. I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will see that the Amendment which we propose makes a much tidier job of it.

The purpose of the second Amendment is to help the museum where it might find itself in a difficulty if it had been left an object, perhaps long ago, which had no particular relevance in the museum but which was left to the museum or its predecessor on certain conditions. It might have been left an excellent pair of suites of Japanese armour, or something of that kind, on condition that they were permanently displayed to the public. While I would on every normal occasion defend the wishes of any bene-factor, and say that they should be carried forward into the future, there are some benefactions which could in the future become an incubus. Perhaps the Government had not thought about this difficulty when they prepared the Bill.

I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will have something to say on the proposal that we should omit subsection (4).

Mr. MaeDermot:

We have considered the matters which the hon. Gentleman has raised, and I must advise the House to reject the Amendments. I think there is quite an important point involved.

The Clause as it stands is modelled on, though slightly wider than, the corresponding provision of the British Museum Act of 1963—Section 5. The powers which we conferred in the Clause as drafted are ones with which the present interim Board of Governors of the Museum of London are well satisfied, and they would not wish to see them widened.

The point at issue is whether the power of the Board to sell, exchange, give away or otherwise dispose of any of the objects forming part of the collection should be an unrestricted, unlimited power, or whether it should he restricted in the words which the hon. Gentleman suggests should be left out.

There are two restrictions. The first is that they can dispose of them only if the object is either duplicated or is, for any other reason, in their opinion, not required for retention in relation to collections; and secondly if they have accepted the object subject to a trust or condition, then they cannot dispose of it in a way which would conflict with the terms of that trust or condition.

The important point is that it might severely restrict the number of people who would be prepared to make gifts to the museum in the form of trusts or bequests, as is frequently done, if they felt that any condition which they wished to impose might be disregarded at will by the Board. There is no obligation on the museum to accept a donation if it thinks that the conditions subject to which it is offered are too restrictive or too onerous.

Once it is decided to accept them subject to the terms of a trust I think it would he regarded as a serious breach of faith if the museum did not adhere to the terms of the gift.

This is a normal provision. It is modelled on that of the British Museum Act and is one which we should adhere to. I respectfully suggest that, as drafted, the Board has got very wide powers to dispose of objects quite sufficient to its needs, namely that it is not required to retain unnecessarily duplicates or anything which for any reason, it thinks is not required for retention in the collections. I suggest to the House that it is better to leave the matter as originally drafted.

Amendment negatived.