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Baroness Lockwood: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. In pursuing the matter I first of all declare an interest as chairman of the National Coalmining Museum for England. Does the Minister agree that the report reveals a rich heritage indicating the contribution that coalmining has made to our economic, social and industrial history, and indeed to our imperial history as coalmining was fundamental to our becoming the workshop of the world during the industrial revolution? Moreover, is the Minister aware that there are only two of these museums that have an underground element: the National Coalmining Museum for England and the Big Pit in Wales? Both of those museums face an acute financial crisis. Have the Government any contingency plans to help those two museums until the Museums and Galleries Commission is able to establish a long-term strategy on the lines of the report?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right to outline the contribution of the coalmining industry. The Government are bringing forward a national museums review which is due in the summer. That will deal with the problem of museums in general. That will make particular reference to the kind of issues that the noble Baroness described.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am aware of the point that the noble Lord makes about the underground galleries and the costs that they entail. I understand that the National Coalmining Museum for England is shortly to submit a lottery bid. It is not simply that the transitional funding is coming to an end. Wider problems afflict these museums; for example, admission numbers are declining and local authority support is not as strong as it was.
Lord Mason of Barnsley: My Lords, I reinforce the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra. The continuation of these national coalmining museums has all-party support in this House. As the noble Lord has read the independent consultant's report which has been submitted to the Museums and Galleries Commission, can he give an indication to the House as to whether any recommendations in the report or funding proposals will be accepted?
Finally, have any discussions taken place on the long-term funding between the Government and RJB Mining with the Government helping, possibly with grant in aid, the survival of those museums? What is the possibility of a rate support grant as part of such a package?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord asks a number of questions, most of which will be addressed in the museums' review to which I previously referred. RJB Mining is already contributing to the English museum.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that those museums represent an important resource for archaeology? Does he also agree that we as a Conservative Party have a particular duty to remember and conserve the past? Those museums are an important part of that past. Brave men lived and worked there. I do not believe that we can treat this simply as an issue which the Museums and Galleries Commission will consider. It is a central, national issue.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, my noble friend is right. This is an important issue. It is an important museum and is given the recognition of being a national museum by the Museums and Galleries Commission.
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, is the Minister aware that if he visited the mining museum in Yorkshire he would find some excellent facilities for all the community, including disabled people? Those facilities are much better than some nearer at hand.
Baroness White: My Lords, the Pwll Mawr (Big Pit) is not a museum, it is an experience. Going right down into the pit is the kind of experience which I believe no one who has visited it will ever forget. It is far more important than simply looking around a museum and seeing various matters of interest. Such a visit is genuinely an experience which lasts for the rest of your life.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I have been down only one pit--the West Herrington Pit--when I was a Conservative candidate for County Durham. It was a very worthwhile experience. I have no doubt that the same applies to the Big Pit.
Lord Morris of Castle Morris: My Lords, perhaps I may declare with pride an interest as a former chairman of the Museums and Galleries Commission and ask the Minister whether he recalls the commission's own summary of the Shorland-Ball Report, which says:
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the review is not complete and therefore I am not in a position to advise your Lordships of its conclusions. Neither am I in a position to advise your Lordships on the state of consultation with Scotland and Wales, but I shall write to the noble Lord and give him particulars.
The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, arrangements for the evacuation of passengers from baggage halls and their re-entry at UK airports are a matter for the airport concerned. They are responsible for drawing up contingency plans in consultation with interested parties and taking account of all relevant requirements, including those in respect of aviation security.
The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, the Government are satisfied that the airport has properly discharged its responsibilities for planning for evacuation. The noble Lord let me know the content of his inquiry. I am asking the managing director of Heathrow Airport to write to the noble Lord about the evacuation on the night in question.
Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, is the Minister not aware that it would be an act of great stupidity to take out of the hands of the security people involved in any incident the right to keep anyone outside the periphery of activity? Is he further aware that but for the magnificent performance of the Greater Manchester Police, the Greater Manchester Fire Force and other related services there could have been a holocaust in the centre of Manchester? Only the action of those services prevented loss of life. I believe that it would be dangerous to start wavering and to allow people back on a personal basis. If we take the matter out of the hands of the security forces, we are asking for a mountain of trouble.
The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right to congratulate the emergency services on their work throughout the United Kingdom. Of course security is of the utmost importance throughout all airports in the United Kingdom.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, is the noble Earl really telling the House that the Government disclaim all responsibility for matters of the kind raised by his noble friend Lord Geddes? Is it entirely a matter for the private interests involved, including the airports and aircraft companies? Surely the Government must have some responsibility as regards safety and possible retrieval and loss. It cannot be sufficient to leave it entirely to other authorities.
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