The Board's General Function

Part of National Heritage Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 5 May 1983.

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Photo of Mr Neil Macfarlane Mr Neil Macfarlane , Sutton and Cheam 8:45, 5 May 1983

I have to express some surprise at the comments made by the hon. Gentleman in moving this amendment, which I am sure he does for the best of motives. I am surprised that he should refer to the major worries which he thinks that the armouries have. My door is for ever open for my responsibilities throughout the land and I have not had any detailed discussions on this, nor have I had any indication that they are unhappy. We have had many discussions in recent months for a variety of reasons and I do not believe that they are as worried as has been suggested. If the hon. Gentleman has a source of which I am not aware, I hope that he will identify it so that I may ascertain the exact nature of the concerns to which he has referred.

The amendment seeks to extend to the armouries the facility given in Committee to the Victoria and Albert museum and the science museum to continue their practice of letting parts of their premises for sponsorship or other activities unrelated to their general functions.

The difficulties seem to lie in status. It is clear that the trading functions will have to be integrated with the general tower operation. The closeness at the Department of the Environment and at the tower makes the appointment of trustees and grant-in-aid status right in their circumstances. I must remind the House that the problem for the armouries is that their collections will be housed principally in the tower of London. We are all agreed that that must continue. As the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) understands, the tower is a royal palace. It would be inappropriate for the trustees to be able to authorise events at the tower that are unrelated to their functions. This procedure might not match the status of the tower, and it is clearly a matter of status.

I cannot accept the amendment but I undertake to consider the role of the trustees, the armouries and those who run the tower. I must tell the hon. Member for Derby, North that the amendment would not fit with the rest of the Bill.