Acquisition and Disposal of Objects

Part of 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 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.