Acquisition and Disposal of Objects

National Heritage Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 5th May 1983.

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Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West 8:30 pm, 5th May 1983

I beg to move amendment No. 8, in page 5, leave out lines 2 to 4 and insert `and the Tate Gallery Trustees'.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 18, 27, 122, 123 and 127.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

There is a printing error in amendment No. 18. It should read to end of line 7 rather than to end of line 8".

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

In that case, the amendment should not be considered.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I undersand that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment. If the House wishes me to abandon the amendment I can do so, but that would be a mistake. It would make nonsense of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We would not normally make heavy weather of such a matter, but an important amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Beeston (Mr. Lester), who is not present at the moment, was ruled out of order earlier—even though it had the support of many hon. Members —because it contained a printing error. Less than half an hour later, the Minister is apologising to the House for considering an amendment containing a printing error. Following the precedent of the earlier decision, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I respectfully suggest that the amendment is not in order.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I understand that the amendment of the hon. Member for Beeston (Mr. Lester) was not selected by Mr. Speaker, whereas amendment No. 18 was selected by Mr. Speaker but contains a printing error.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , Staffordshire South West

I may be able to help the House. I have in my hand the original text of the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Beeston (Mr. Lester). I am sorry to have to say it in his absence, but his own text contains the error that appeared on the Notice Paper. The amendment must have been copied direct from his text, and it was then not selected. That was most unfortunate, and the Table Office should have detected the error. But the two amendments are in different categories.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) and to the House. It is hard to avoid the occasional mistake in a complicated measure of this kind. We are extremely grateful to the House authorities for having managed to get so much printing done, and done correctly. In any case, I am sure that the House would not wish me to abandon the amendments as their purpose is entirely to meet points raised by the Opposition. I am happy to do as the House wishes, but I think that if the amendments are not made the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) will be in even greater danger of apoplexy than he already is. Even in the absence of the hon. Gentleman, I think that I should meet the point that he raised in Committee.

The amendments add the boards of the Tower armouries, the British museum of natural history and the British library to those set out in schedule 1 to the National Gallery and Tate Gallery Act 1954. It named institutions other than the National and Tate galleries to which the Secretary of State could direct works of art left to the nation without specific directions. The National and Tate galleries are governed by specific provisions elsewhere in that Act, but there are good reasons why the three other institutions should also be able to benefit. I shall not go into the interesting history of why they were omitted at that time, but I am sure that the House agrees that they should now be added.

The amendments fill some of the more serious gaps involving the British museum and the British library and by adding the British museum of natural history and the armouries to the schedule enable them to receive relevant objects by transfer from other national institutions so empowered.

Under the British Library Act 1972 the British museum has power to transfer to the British library board any article in its collection. Section 9 of the British Museum Act 1963 gives the trustees of the British museum similar powers of transfer but in relation only to pictures. The British library will now be listed in the schedule to the 1954 Act. There may be a world of difference between an article and a picture. It is highly unlikely that in transferring a picture the British museum trustees would specify the provision under which they were making the transfer, so it is right to specify that pictures will be transferred under the powers set out in section 9 of the 1963 Act.

The amendments are small, but I think that they meet the wish of the hon. Member for Warley, East and all members of the Standing Committee that the provisions relating to transfers should be much easier than they were. I hope that the House will welcome the amendments. If there are questions, I have a vast brief from which I could read for at least three quarters of an hour, but I thought that the House might for once take it on trust that the amendments are good ones.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

On behalf of the Opposition, I welcome this group of amendments, subject to correction of any misprints. It might well put undue strain on the arteries of my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), absent though he may be on other duties, were I in any way to dispute what the Minister has done. I am sure that the amendments will be wholly welcomed in Warley, East and all points south, north and west.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , Staffordshire South West

I should perhaps add for the record that, whatever other duties the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) may undertake from time to time, at the moment he is ill and I am sure that we are all very sorry about that.

Amendment agreed to.