I am still considering the remaining recommendations of the Rayner report in the light of the many comments received during and after the consultation period, but I hope to make a statement shortly.
Bearing in mind that Rayner reported as long ago as last May, will my right hon. Friend be more explicit about the timing of his statement? Will he also be more forthcoming about which recommendations he is likely to accept?
The Government immediately accepted the main recommendation of the Rayner report—that the Victoria and Albert and Science museums should be given a great deal of independence and should cease to be departmental museums. At the moment, the Bill is in another place. I hope to make a statement before Christmas. I hope that my hon. Friend will not make me anticipate what I shall say then. I hope to give the House an answer before then.
May I press the Minister a little further, as this is the last Arts Question Time before Christmas? Does the clause in the National Heritage Bill that allows museums to make charges without qualifications if they see fit mean that he has gone down the charges path? Would he not rather endorse the educational use of museums that is written into the Education Act 1964, which has recently been underpinned by the Select Committee's recommendations? Will the Minister endorse, as the Bill appears not to do, the wider managerial functions of trustees that Rayner suggested for the two new bodies that govern the museums? Will he include representatives in the museums—
I am surprised to hear that this is the last Arts Question Time before Christmas. The hon. Gentleman has information that is not available to me. With regard to charges, there has been no change since my answer at the end of May to the Rayner scrutiny report. The Government do not wish to compel museums to make charges but they will consider any proposals to that effect on their merits. We shall have plenty of opportunity, in due course to debate the Bill that is in another place. I shall bear the hon. Gentleman's views in mind when that happens.