§ 7 and 17. Mr. Macdonald
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science (1) how many representations he has received asking him to postpone moving the railway relics from Clapham to York until an inquiry has been carried out into the possibility of keeping them in London; and what reply he has sent;
(2) what plans he has for housing those railway relics now in the museum at Clapham for which there will be no room in the proposed museum at York.
§ 16. Mr. Ridley
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will commission a feasibility study into 859 the setting up of a National Transport Museum in London to house the most important national transport relics.
§ 39 and 40. Mrs. McKay
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science (1) if he will postpone the decision to move the Transport Museum to York until an independent study has been carried out into the possibility of keeping the collection in London;
(2) if he will ask the Greater London Council to carry out a feasibility study into a site for a new Transport Museum within the Greater London Council area.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Miss Jennie Lee)
The whole question of the future of the transport relics has been looked at very thoroughly. The Clapham building is unsuitable to continue as a museum. The new museum at York will provide a living railway museum for future generations.
I have received many letters about the proposed move from Clapham to York and have given the answer I have just given.
I may add that exhibits at Clapham which relate to the London Transport Board will be reclaimed by London. The remainder, nearly 70 per cent., will go on display at York.
§ Mr. Macdonald
Is it not a fact that the move from Clapham to York will convert and restrict a national transport museum to a provincial railway museum? Is it not thoroughly undesirable to make this regressive move on purely temporary, ad hoc administrative and financial grounds? Would it not be far better to conduct an inquiry into the whole principle of where our national transport museum should be sited?
§ Miss Lee
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for showing such interest in this matter, but I would be still more grateful if those taking an interest in the controversy would do us the honour of looking at the evidence that we have collected. Clapham has no powers of internal mobility; no expansion point. It is unsuitable. Other London points are unsuitable. The essence is not cost. The essence is that, on all the evidence we have looked at, we can make a national and expanding museum in York. Perhaps I might add that we just have to be a little careful, 860 at this very time when men are trying to reach the moon, in assuming that to go to Oxford or Cambridge, Edinburgh or York, or any of our great cities outside London, is a journey beyond the capacity of those with specialised interests.
§ Mr. Ridley
Is the right hon. Lady aware that she has not carried a large section of public opinion with her in this decision; and that if she has this good evidence and these good grounds, people would be very much more convinced if she were to hold an impartial and public inquiry, so that everyone, and not just herself, could partake in the decision making?
§ Mrs. McKay
Is my right hon. Friend aware that hon. Members and members of national bodies have studied the evidence made available by the Minister and are completely dissatisfied; and that the people who are dissatisfied are people outside London? Even from York, people have protested against this move—[Interruption.] Is the Minister aware of the growing disquiet about this move being taken without any feasibility study being made by any responsible authority at all? Will she please delay action and permit the Clapham museum to continue?
§ Miss Lee
With permission, I shall make available in the Library to hon. Members all the evidence that has been collected. I know that the hon. Lady the Member for Clapham (Mrs. McKay) has a constituency interest, but I know that she knows that her council has said that Clapham is totally unsuitable, and I have already given my reasons for thinking so on all the evidence at our disposal. We should keep in mind that we are living in a very precious island in which London is important, but in which, perhaps, there are also high points of excellence outside London.
§ Mr. Lyon
Is it not an arrogant assumption that nowhere outside London is suitable for any kind of national museum? Is there any better place for a national transport museum than the second city in the country, which is also a great regional transport centre, which was also for many hundreds of years the capital of England, and which today is attracting more visitors to its Castle Museum than the British Museum is attracting to its exhibits?
§ Mr. Channon
Would not the right hon. Lady agree that, in spite of what the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) said, there is some concern that the site proposed for this museum in York may be too small? Will she say whether this has been studied? Secondly, can she say whether or not the site at Nine Elms, which has been proposed, was fully studied by her before she came to this decision?
§ Miss Lee
This is a national museum and therefore Greater London Council, quite properly, says that it is not prepared to take financial responsibility for it. I was in York a few days ago. I had difficulty in getting into the present museum as so many people, particularly children, were there. It is static, like Clapham, but I did visit the engine room and I saw the great expanse of land right down to the very decorative riverside, which satisfied me that we can have internal mobility in York. It seemed to me that there is surrounding space in which to make an extremely agreeable museum.
§ 18. Mr. Ridley
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will carry out a feasibility study into the best way of providing a National Transport Record Office in the Metropolis for the records of the transport industries.
§ Miss Jennie Lee
The proposal to amalgamate at the new museum in York the record collections covered by Section 144 of the Transport Act, 1968, which are at present housed in London and York, has been looked at very thoroughly. I am sure that, in all the circumstances, this is the right solution.
§ Mr. Ridley
Will the right hon. Lady agree that all the transport records should be together and that these archives of international importance should not be split up? Second, ought they not to be in close proximity to all the other national records, which are in the Metropolis? Will she look at the matter again?
§ Miss Lee
What the hon. Gentleman suggests is not necessarily so. For instance, Scotland will have its own records, and those have been handed to the Secretary of State for Scotland. London has its own records. York will have the records excluding Scotland's and London's at the present time. One must accept that there are most distinguished libraries and collections outside London with specialised appeal.
§ Mr. Macdonald
Is it not thoroughly undesirable that the decision about the site where these records are kept should, apparently, be taken on the mere fortuitous circumstance that premises happen to be available at a certain site? Would it not be far better to undertake a rational inquiry into the best and most convenient place from the standpoint of the principle of siting these records?
§ Miss Lee
My hon. Friend is misinformed. It was not by accident that there was a Transport Museum at York at well as at Clapham. York was a great railway centre with a great tradition. We found that we had there the geographical setting—all the evidence was examined, and the question has been gone into very thoroughly—and it was clear that this was the best location.