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Mr. Dunne: The Mappa Mundi has featured prominently in our debate. It is a map, and maps are not necessarily categorised as works as art. The chained library primarily contains books, which are not necessarily works of art. It is therefore not clear that the terms "artefacts" and "works of art" are sufficient, which is why I asked the Minister for clarity.
The hon. Gentleman objected to amendment No. 36 on the grounds that it did not remedy a mischief. His exegesis of the unamended clause is of interest, but it is not conclusive. Does he not accept that it would be helpful if the Minister made it clear that the existing unamended clause is intended to embrace the terms of amendment No. 36? Failing that, we are justified in pursuing a belt-and-braces approach.
As I said earlier, amendment No. 1, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), is problematic. It might be nice for the local Conservative association to gather its fees and present them to a gallery or a museum. They could, however, present that money as a gift aid cheque. In fact, if the association members raised some extra money on the bus, they could be even more generous by filling in a form and providing substantial amounts to the gallery or museum in question. I am not sure whether that is a very good argument in favour of the amendment, but the fundamental point is that it would be difficult to extend the benefits to all the other 20 people throughout the whole year. We should reject the amendment and stick with the Government's proposal, as there should be a degree of financial dependency among the group of people as they are constituted.
Does the hon. Gentleman object to the principle of amendment No. 1 or the number to
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which it refers? If he objects to the principle, why does he disagree with the industry's leading practitioners, including the Law Society and its tax law committee?
Chris Bryant: It is the principle that I object to, not the number. As the hon. Gentleman said earlier when he confessed the weakness of his own argument, the number is entirely arbitrary; it could be six, 20, 50 or 100, and he has chosen 20. My argument is that there should be a degree of financial dependency, as would be found in a family. That is why we should reject his amendment and stick with what the Government propose.
The paying person produces a total of 21, but my understanding of proposed new section (5I) to the Finance Act 1990 is that all 21 people, of whatever agethey will often include childrenwould have the right of admission for a year.
That seems to contradict hon. Members who have argued that one year is too long. On one hand, it is said that one year is too long and people should not have free membership for a year, but we can apparently still pile in 20 people with what is effectively free membership, as it is being characterised, or certainly the right to free admission. Will the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) explain that contradiction and tell us whether he supports amendment No. 35?
Rob Marris: It is helpful to know that the hon. Gentleman continues to support amendment No. 35, despite my exegesis, as the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) would call it, on the contradiction.
I have already referred in interventions to amendment No. 36, whose wording is problematic. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's comments, but I think that the word "experiments" is problematic. Museums and similar places have many exhibits that are interactive, but that are not in the nature of experiments. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda sagely pointed out, if the wording is too narrow, institutions could fall foul of it that would not do so if the provisions were left slightly broader. If amendment No. 36 were agreed to, an institution offering interactive exhibits that are not in the nature of experiments would be excluded, even though it might not otherwise have been excluded. I urge caution in that regard.
John Bercow: The hon. Gentleman is a magnificent anorakhe is even more pedantic than I am in such matters. He has made a thought-provoking point, and I put it to him that, although the interactivity of itself might not be experimental, a child's decision and choice to participate in it probably is.
The hon. Gentleman has made my point for meit is difficult to interpret tax legislation in terms of who is the user of an exhibit. If he were playing with
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the machine with flashing lights, it might not be an experiment, but if his son Oliver were playing with such an instrument, it might be an experiment, given the young lad's age.
I shall be interested to hear what the Economic Secretary has to say about amendment No. 35. Some hon. Members have been pessimistic in assessing the effect of the one-year admission rule, which amendment No. 35 would change. The excellent Wolverhampton art gallery, of which I am not a member because it is free, has a tea shop, the kind of facility to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda referred. Lots of people who go to the tea shop just to drink tea end up catching an exhibition. The example is anecdotal, but since the tea shop has been expanded in the past few years, footfall must have increased since the abolition of entry charges to museums.
Many museums in England, Wales and, I suspect, Scotlandthis is possibly true in Northern Irelandare expanding their provision of tea shops because they are experiencing greater footfall with free admissions. Footfall increased following the introduction of the 12-month right of admission in the great public museums and art galleries that have become free under this Government, and footfall might similarly increase in small museums, such as the Gainsborough museum in Sudbury to which the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) referred.
The 12-month right of admission might allow small museums that already get some repeat business to increase that business and benefit from spin-offs on commercial sales and increased interest in the museum and its offerings. Charities should try to increase footfall to enable more people to enjoy and learn, which is their purpose. If a museum were creative, the 12-month restriction could assist it by allowing it to say to people, "You are now an honorary class 2 member. Come here more often, drink more cups of tea and bring other people with you."
Amendment No. 35 attempts to address a problem that may not exist, whereas the current wording in the Bill could provide small museums and art galleries with an opportunity to increase visitor numbers.
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Ivan Lewis): When I was appointed Minister with responsibility for adult skills in the Department for Education and Skills, many people said that my challenge was to make that post sexy. Having listened to this afternoon's debate, I am not sure whether this challenge exceeds that one.
I thank the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) for his kind words about my new post. I enjoyed jousting with him on the Higher Education Act 2004 and I am sure that he will shadow me in a reasonably dignified way. [Laughter.] I nearly said that I look forward to the months and years ahead, but I will settle for the months ahead.
This is my maiden Finance Bill speech, which, as I understand it, Mrs. Heal, means no interventions, a polite hearing from hon. Members and a discussion of the wonders of my constituency. Hon. Members' contributions covered an astonishing range of interests. I declare an interest as president of the Manchester City
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football club in the community scheme, by which admission to the trophy room has been entirely free for the past 29 years.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), because, as one will find if one studies Hansard closely, all the Tory amendments tabled for this debate come from his contribution on Second Reading. On that basis, he could well be yet another Conservative party leadership candidate. Indeed, when he referred to Nelson's ménage à trois, I wondered whether that was a potential solution to the difficulties facing the Tories as they choose their leader.
The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer) made an important contribution. She saidthis comment will be very familiar to all hon. Members in relation to the Liberal Democratsthat those on the ground always know best. That depends on which ground it is. The hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) observed from a sedentary position that the Liberals back the Tories, but that would depend on which part of the country we were talking about, as well as which Tories.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) kindly took it upon himself to answer questions on my behalfat one stage, I thought that he was looking to swap positions with me. I am sure that I can have a word with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see what we can do, but not just yet; perhaps I could be given a few months in the job.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson) asked how the Government will consider the proposal's impact on charities. To demonstrate how much confidence my advisers have in my ability to handle this debate, I have the answer here. It reads: "The Government has no wish to overburden charities. We are happy to monitor the effect of these changes over time." I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend. He is right to say that, whenever we introduce any new regulations or legislation in this House we must, as a matter of course, review its impact and ensure that it does not make the situation worse.
The hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Dunne), who has so many interests that I wonder how he can cope with the burdens of doing this jobhe said that he is now the director of a bookshop, as well, and is obviously a very busy manmade a reasonable point about the Mappa Mundi. I was delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Rhonddamy shadow Minister, so to speakwas able to explain what that is, because I did not have a clue. On a serious note, the hon. Member for Ludlow raised an important issue. I will write to him about it, because I do not want to give him and his constituents a trite answer that may prove to be not entirely accurate.
The hon. Member for Rayleigh made one or two comments that I did not completely agree with. He said that, during his conversations with various stakeholder groups involved in this debate, they described my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary as a reasonable man. I am not sure to whom he has been speaking. He said that they were anxious not to be caught up in party political fighting and read out an e-mail from the person concerned.
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On the whole, people have attempted to make a sensible contribution to the debate, bearing it in mind that these issues have an impact in the real world on charitable organisations that are doing an excellent job, as well as on those who wish to patronise them and to contribute significantly to charity. There is complete unity among Members on both sides of the Committee that the voluntary sector is an incredibly important part of the kind of society that we want to encourage. People making contributions to charity is in the finest traditions of this country, and gift aidI give credit to the former Prime Minister who introduced it when he was Chancellor of the Exchequerhas been a particularly innovative and imaginative way of supporting and encouraging charitable giving. I was slightly bemused when the hon. Member for Rayleigh referred to difficulties with the playing field for publicly funded galleries and museums. There was no problem with a level playing field under the Tory Government because there was no question of free admission to museums and galleries. The Government should be incredibly proud of introducing free admission.
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