Clause 49 - Power to de-accession human remains

Human Tissue Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 5th February 2004.

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Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health) 2:30 pm, 5th February 2004

I beg to move amendment No. 128, in

clause 49, page 31, line 4, leave out subsection (5) and insert—

'(5) Schedule [consequential amendments relating to de-accession] shall have effect.'.

Photo of Mr Alan Hurst Mr Alan Hurst Labour, Braintree

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New schedule 1—Consequential Amendments Relating To De-accession—

Imperial War Museum Act 1920.

1 (1) The Imperial War Museum Act 1920 (c.16) is amended as follows.

(2) In section (2) (powers and duties of Board) after subsection (1)(c), there is inserted—

''(cc) dispose of any human remains belonging to the Museum (including things with which the human remains are mixed or bound up) in accordance with the provisions of section 49 of the Human Tissue Act 2004.''

National Maritime Museum Act 1934.

2 (1) The National Maritime Museum Act 1934 (c.43) is amended as follows.

(2) In section 2 (establishment of Board of trustees and duties of the Board) after subsection (3)(b), there is inserted—

''(cc) dispose of any human remains vested in them for the purposes of the Museum (including things with which the human remains are mixed or bound up) in accordance with the provisions of section 49 of the Human Tissue Act 2004.''

British Museum Act 1963.

3 (1) The British Museum Act 1963 (c.24) is amended as follows.

(2) After section 5 there is inserted—

''5A Powers of British Museum Trustees under the Human Tissue Act 2004

The Trustees of the British Museum may dispose of any human remains vested in them and comprised in their collections (including things with which the human remains are mixed or bound up) in accordance with the provisions of section 49 of the Human Tissue Act 2004.''

(3) After section 8 there is inserted—

''8A Powers of National History Trustees under the Human Tissue Act 2004

The Natural History Trustees may dispose of any human remains vested in them and comprised in their collections (including things with which the human remains are mixed or bound up) in accordance with the provisions of section 49 of the Human Tissue Act 2004.''

National Heritage Act 1983.

4 (1) The National Heritage Act 1983 (c.47) is amended as follows.

(2) In section 6(3) (acquisition and disposal of objects by Board of the Victoria and Albert Museum), after paragraph (c), there is inserted—

''(cc) the disposal is an exercise of a power conferred by section 49 of the Human Tissue Act 2004, or''.

(3) In section 14(3) (acquisition and disposal of objects by Board of the Science Museum), after paragraph (c), there is inserted—

''(cc) the disposal is an exercise of a power conferred by section 49 of the Human Tissue Act 2004, or''.

(4) In section 20(3) (acquisition and disposal of objects by Board of the Armouries), after paragraph (c), there is inserted—

''(cc) the disposal is an exercise of a power conferred by section 49 of the Human Tissue Act 2004, or''.

Merseyside Museums and Galleries Order 1986.

5 (1) The Merseyside Museums and Galleries Order 1986 (S.I. 1986/226) is amended as follows.

(2) In Article 6 (acquisition and disposal of works and objects), after paragraph (2)(c), there is inserted—

''(cc) the disposal is an exercise of a power conferred by section 49 of the Human Tissue Act 2004, or''.'.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

The clause gives powers to bodies to de-accession human remains. My understanding is that its purpose is to allow the remains of indigenous people to be returned to their countries of origin. We welcome this measure, but we are concerned about the drafting. Some of the bodies that are mentioned in the Bill have expressed concerns about the position in which the measure would place their trustees.

The amendment and the new schedule would get round that for all of the bodies that are listed, with the exception of the Museum of London. Under the legislation governing that body, its governors are allowed to de-accession human remains on the authority of a majority of two thirds of the governors, so it is unnecessary to include it in new schedule 1. For the remainder, we propose powers for the trustees of the bodies, all of which are governed by separate Acts. The amendment would make consequential amendments to that legislation to enable the trustees to exercise the powers that we propose to give them.

It is worth pointing out that we are talking about powers, not obligations. I am sure that the Minister will say that it is up to the museums or bodies concerned to de-accession remains; there is no obligation on them. However, we hope very much that they will agree to requests to de-accession and return the remains of indigenous peoples, as that, as I understand it, is the purpose of the clause. I commend the amendment to the Committee and hope that the Minister will accommodate it.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton The Minister of State, Department of Health

I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's comments. We are not aware of any representations having been made about that issue arising from the clause by any of the organisations or museums that he mentioned. As he said, new schedule 1 seeks to insert references to clause 49 into the governing legislation of the museums concerned. It and the amendment are unnecessary, because subsection (5) makes it clear that the power given by the clause to each museum is a freestanding power, in

addition to the other powers in the legislation that governs them. The clause is technically correct and it is the appropriate means by which to grant power under the Bill to national museums to de-accession human remains.

I undertake to go back to the organisations that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, and I will ask the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to check that we have not overlooked any problems. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we feel that the clause satisfactorily covers the issues that he has raised, but we shall check in case anything has been missed out or the organisations have any concerns that they have not told us about, and if there are such concerns we shall come back. I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

With the assurance that the Minster will make further inquiries on this matter, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 49 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 50 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 6 agreed to.

Clauses 51 to 53 ordered to stand part of the Bill.