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Lord Harrison: My Lords, in the light of recent thefts and the need to protect some £5 billion of treasures in our national museums, is my noble friend satisfied that the museums security officer, who has two members of staff to help him, has sufficient resources for the task of securing our museums and for the widening task of offering advice to our European colleagues on these matters? Will the Minister say a little more about regional museums? Do those valued museums in our regions enjoy the same level of security?
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I can be totally reassuring about the national security advisers based at the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council because I used to chair that body and spent many happy hours talking to the security advisers and seeing what they did. They have a tremendous reputation in the UK, and they are very often asked for advice by overseas museums.
As for the regions, there were 14 thefts from regional museums across the UK but, given that there are more than 1,800 accredited museums, that is not a large number. Local authorities are responsible for local museums and the security advisers feel that they do a really good job.
Lord Addington: My Lords, museums and galleries are under pressure to display their back catalogues or stored items. Will the Minister give an assurance that they will not have to increase the number of items on display unless they have sufficient resources to make sure that they are secure?
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, of course. When museums look at what they display, they carry out risk assessments and take relevant action. Obviously, if
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a small museum in one of the regions has an extremely valuable object, but does not feel that it can be protected adequately, it will be kept in safe storage.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, does the National Trust come into the deliberations of the Government? Some of the most beautiful and valuable things in this country are owned by the National Trust. It would be very sad if they were stolen or lost in a fire.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I do not have figures on the National Trust, but I know that it has its own highly effective security advisers. Certainly, national security advisers liaise with National Trust advisers. Obviously, I agree with the noble Baroness that many of our national treasures are held in National Trust houses.
Lord Maxton: My Lords, while it is important that we ensure the safety of our treasures in museums and galleries, is there not a danger that increasing expenditure on security will make access to those treasures by the general public more difficult? If money is to be available for museums and galleries, should we not spend it on improving access and educational services?
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. Access is of critical importance. Noble Lords will know that it was this Government who abolished entrance fees to increase the number of people visiting museums. On looking at the figures on theft, it is fascinating to see that most thefts occurred in places in museums where the general public do not goareas that are not of great interest to them.
A great deal of money is spent on museum security, which has been a constant during the past four or five years. If there is a problem with a museum, as there was with the V&A last year, additional resources are given to that museum to enhance its security.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, museum security very much depends on the resources available. Can the Minister give an assurance that national museums and galleries have been sufficiently compensated for the costs involved in introducing free admission?
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, that is a much bigger question, which I imagine may relate to the Science Museum. Whatever the arguments about funding of national museums, security cannot be skimped on. The sum of £37 million was spent on security. One museum, which I do not intend to name, spent £7.9 million on security last year. There is no need to worry about security at our museums.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, does the noble Lord realise that he need not worry too much about security if he wishes more people to visit museums? Some years ago the Goya painting of the Duke of Wellington was purchased by a grateful nation and was hung in the National Gallery. Someone pinched it and more
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people went to see the place where the picture had hung than ever went to see the picture when it hung there.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I am aware of that. I am also aware that whenever a famous painting is stolen from anywhere in the world the same thing always applies. Apparently, more people are lining up in Oslo to see where "The Scream" was hung than were there before.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they will take to address the problems caused by the difference of up to seven seconds between the BBC time signal received by digital and by analogue radio and television receivers.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, this is, of course, a matter for the BBC and not for the Government. Live digital broadcasts are delayed by a second or two when compared to analogue and by up to seven seconds for radio streamed via the Internet. While that slight and relative discrepancy is not a big issue for most viewers and listeners, it will obviously be a concern for those who rely on the six pips to get the time accurate to the second. There is no obvious solution. Even if the BBC were to broadcast the signal slightly earlier, there still would be an unavoidable and unpredictable delay occurring at the receiver end that was variable from one product to another.
Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, while thanking the Minister for his Answer, does he not agree that this is the first time that the integrity of the BBC's time signal has ever been questioned? It is sending out two time signals: one is for analogue radios, which is the correct time up to 1/5,000th of a second; the other signal is digital which is erratic, as the Minister explained. Instead of questioning the integrity of clock and watch manufacturers, is not the simple answer that the BBC ceases to transmit the six pips to digital receivers and gives a spoken statement? It can be extremely misleading and may lead to many accidents.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, there is a balance to be struck in relation to the noble Lord's clear concern about accuracy. If that concern was the total premium, the digital pips would have to disappear. It may be that that will have to happen. The BBC is looking at the situation to see whether there is any engineering solution or whether to continue with the
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service on the grounds that, for the vast majority of viewers and listeners, the pips on digital give a fairly clear indication of the time.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, has done this House a service by bringing this issue to your Lordships' attention? The Minister explained that there are normally six pips to enable us to recognise the hour. Does he realise that once a year there are seven pips, usually on New Year's Eve, because the Earth's rotation is slowing down and a seventh pip is required, no doubt due to the Government's economic policy in that area? Does the Minister agree that we will forgive the BBC for being a couple of pips late if it returns the weather forecast to its original state on the television?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I should confess that I am not a time lord and more of a Doctor Whoperhaps I should say "Lord Who". The answer to the noble Viscount's question is straightforward. Of course he is right. That adjustment has to be made because the Earth's travel around the Sun is not precise and we are not able to measure it with the precision that is indicated.
We have, of course, got atomic clocks to which people can refer. The Great Clock of Westminstersometimes referred to as Big Benis governed by that. Railway digital clocks are governed by a signal sent out from the National Physical Laboratory. So we maintain accurate time in this country, but there is a problem with regard to the broadcast. I am sorry if on this occasion I am obliged to give the noble Viscount the pip.
Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: My Lords, according to a sports-loving friend of mine, there is some benefit to the delay. Apparently, if you nip quickly from a Sky digital broadcast to a BBC analogue one, you can see an instant replay. That sounds a little macho to me, but he swears that that is the case.
On the move from analogue to digital on the national scale, it is to be welcomed that SwitchCo has now been launched to oversee the process and that we have a timetable. But can the Minister indicate what the Government propose to do, when analogue broadcast is finally switched off, to help those who either cannot afford or have chosen not to buy the necessary equipment to allow them to receive a digital signal? Is their switchover a cost that the Government envisage the BBC carrying?
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