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I was talking to a youngish Muslim lady from Birmingham. Almost by chance, she said something that left a chill in me. She said that her 18 year-old son was very ambitious to join the police force; but then she paused and said, “Of course, he daren’t say that at the mosque”. That is worrying. We must get young

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Muslims and blacks into our police force. We must make our police forces reflect much more the communities that they seek to police.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I have to agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, says. It is correct that the police must reflect the nation. They are there to protect and to look after the nation, and they must do that. I support that wholeheartedly.

I find it worrying to hear that someone dare not say he wanted to join the police force because of the mosque. It shows some of the peer pressure and the importance of the prevent strategy, as part of the counterterrorist strategy into which it links. It deals with the use of language and a raft of other things. Someone from that background is therefore able to serve in the police force because we have shared values and it is important that they are there protecting them. That is a message that we need to get across. I agree wholeheartedly with what the noble Lord says, and we must make sure that the police reflect our society.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the Government on this report. Interestingly, last night I was at a meeting with our local police force discussing, of all things, asset management and where the police stations were going to be. The comments of the public were interesting. There is no doubt what they want: police men and women and community support officers on the beat. They are in no doubt that they want bureaucracy reduced. In that respect, I welcome the report.

The one thing police men and women hate more than anything else is the time wasting that has resulted from the excessive form-filling, and the inability to get on with the job of catching criminals and policing the neighbourhood. I also agree with the Minister that, if we want to retain the confidence of the communities, we need transparency and accountability. It is not bureaucracy that protects communities, but transparency and accountability, and a confidence in communities in feeling that this new approach—which I believe to be the right approach—will benefit all the community.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend Lord Young that transparency in almost every area in public life is a very good thing. For example, corruption cannot exist when there is transparency. Yes, people should be accountable.

I have to say that our police do the most fantastic job and there are some wonderful young men and women there. However, they do not want to be filling out forms that they feel are of no use. I hope that this report will stop that happening and that we will be able to get more of them doing what they should be doing. I am sure that we will. That is a positive aspect.

From today’s debate, I have found it reassuring that all Members of this House see that as important. We might have different perspectives on how to achieve some of those things, but we all believe that it is important. Equally, there is good support for our police service across the House, too.

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Museums and Galleries

3.34 pm

Lord Harrison rose to call attention to the policy to grant free entry to national museums, any subsequent assessment of the policy and any further policies the Government have to broaden the profile of those coming to museums and galleries; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, sometimes Governments get policies spectacularly right. The decision to restore free entry to our national museums in 2001 was one such example. The move may be likened in the field of the arts to the Labour Government’s striking move to grant independence to the Bank of England. This leitmotiv policy, buttressed by lottery, millennium and increased revenue funding in the arts, led the Museums Association to say that it is one of the things that has enriched Britain in the past 10 years. We owe particular thanks to, among others in your Lordships’ House, the noble Lord, Lord Smith, the then Secretary of State, who hopes to join us later this afternoon.

The figures speak for themselves: the number of museum visits has doubled, the number of overseas visitors trebled, and the number for art galleries has scarcely lagged behind. The profile of those who have come into our museums since 2001 is as telling. There has been an increase of 79 per cent in children’s visits, 54 per cent for black and ethnic minorities, and 21 per cent for C2s, Ds and Es. There are some who say that the policy has principally favoured the middle classes—but I rejoice if their numbers, too, are swelled. Why not? Later on I will look at those who are still under-represented and at the almost three in five of our citizens who still walk past our museums and never take a second look.

Why is it important to fill our museums and art galleries? Not just because they are magnificent repositories of our history and culture, not just because they calibrate our pulsating engagement with the wider world, not just because they instil an appreciation of all the arts, nor simply because they support an industry that employs many people and stimulates revenues from the plentiful overseas visitors—nor just because museums such as the V&A and the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery have aided the second phase of our industrial revolution by fostering the study of innovation and design—but principally because museums open the Pandora’s box of the mind and blow the winds of the imagination that swirl around and enrich every one of us, whether child, student, parent or pensioner, for the rest of our lives.

But free entry brings some problems in its wake. Some privately run museums have experienced consequential drops in visitor numbers, especially when cash-tight schools inevitably divert to free museums. Other museums which lie near to free national museums are likewise embarrassed. My own local Ellesmere Port boat museum, now part of the National Waterways Museum, has suffered from its proximity to Merseyside’s outstanding national museums, currently revelling in free entry and in their year as European Capital of

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Culture. The boat museum feels doubly aggrieved. It is a national museum but does not enjoy free entry. It also reaches a unique audience—the very people the Government otherwise espouse as part of broadening the museums’ visitor profile. The boat museum interprets Britain’s industrial past and yet promotes the modern leisure uses of our former working canals. The unique and unparalleled National Football Museum at Preston likewise deserves free-entry status. It may be the first museum that a visitor ever visits but its pre-eminent collections and interpretations ensure that it will not be their last. I invite my noble friend to say what the Government might do to help, perhaps by granting private museums a free week’s entry as they propose to do with theatres, or through direct aid for educational visits.

The most testing consequence of the successful free-entry policy has been the need for increased running and maintenance resources arising from the press of increased numbers and from the increased and very welcome lift in activities prompted by free entry. Not only has the independent charity, the Art Fund, alluded to the challenge; so, too, has the Commons 2002 DCMS report. In wholeheartedly upholding the policy, it nevertheless thunders that,

I ask my noble friend to respond.

Whatever else, museums need certainty about continuity of funding. The wonderful stimulus given to the museum world by free entry has also, meritably, seen an explosion of ideas on income generation, the undertaking of imaginative reinterpretations of permanent collections, an increased number of exhibitions, and investment in both staff and infrastructure. Compare our museums with those in France, where wonderful collections are hampered by ancient entry fees and poor interpretation. It is no wonder that the French are now studying the free-entry arrangements in the United Kingdom.

Another germane but troubling development is the charge now being imposed on visitors to our great historical churches and cathedrals. As congregations fall these museums too must command better support from the public purse, as well as a rethink of their flanking role at the heart of established communities.

We must build on free entry and renew our efforts to entice the almost three in five of our citizens who do not see museums as part of their daily lives. Groups typically under-represented include people from the black and minority ethnic groups; people from social groups C2, D and E; those among the disabled who are hampered in fully appreciating our museums; the geographically isolated, typically found in rural areas or regions such as the East Midlands which are under-endowed with museums; and business people whose work never persuades them to ponder that a museum might help their small businesses. I was recently heartened to discover that the British Library now has an active programme to help small businesses fill the gaps in the marketplace by the provision of knowledge and ideas. How logical that is, once someone has thought of it. Curators, too, get a buzz from such cross-fertilisation of ideas. After all, many small museums are akin to small businesses.

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Children should perhaps command our greatest focus because they are the museum-goers of the future and will repay heavy investment now. The welter of hands-on technologies that now bestrew our museum spaces stand in sharp contrast to my early experience of some of the wonderful museums in Oxford, where the prevalent philosophy was more hands off than hands on. It was easier to play ducks and drakes on the River Isis outside than penetrate the wonders of the Pitt Rivers within.

Surely Roy Clare, head of the MLA, is right in saying that retelling the human stories underpinning the artefacts displayed in our museums should always be paramount. An exhibition at Greenwich of the beautiful amulets worn by plantation slaves still needed the human story behind it to be explained, thereby drawing in a new audience interested in learning about Britain’s engagement with the slave trade. All our museums’ collections should highlight the human as well as the academic.

Sometimes, it is something simple that draws people in. We who are museum literate seldom pause outside a museum to assess how welcoming or forbidding are its portals, but we need to be sensitive to the mental barriers that keep people out. Let me offer an example of imagination and the taking of risk. A visit to Christchurch Mansions in Ipswich revealed an exhibition of paintings from the permanent collection chosen by Ipswich Town footballers, with a short appreciation by the players of their favoured picture accompanying it. Not only had the exhibition brought in the footballers, playing on unfamiliar away ground; it also brought in young fans ever anxious to pick up tidbits about their favourite forward. It also brought in the parents who—and how familiar a tale is this?—had never entered the museum on their doorstep.

The disabled, too, are not infrequently rebuffed. But here, too, an imaginative response can transform matters. I am very happy to support Vocaleyes, a charity which helps the visually handicapped to enjoy the theatre by supplementing the dialogue heard on stage with judicious contemporaneous description of the action. Now, Visualeyes is doing something similar in our art galleries and museums, enhancing the experience for the visually handicapped. Nor is the description service confined to the museums’ paintings or artefacts, which themselves may provide a tactile experience for the visitor. Visualeyes also provides a tape, to be listened to before the proposed visit, describing the physical layout of the museum and even the nearby restaurants or bars—all designed to enhance the visitor experience.

I conclude with a series of suggestions and questions. Could my noble friend give more details about the proposed 2008 government paper on developing a national museums strategy? What areas will it cover, and what are its objectives? What proposals might come forward on collecting accurate data on those who come to our museums—and on the many who do not come, to find out why they stay away? How will such research be done without creating paperwork for museums that wish to focus on curatorial duties and welcoming the public? To what extent will the 2012 Olympics be embraced by such a review?

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What more can HMG do to encourage our curators to perform the double role of looking after valued museum artefacts and interpreting them for the visiting public while always emphasising the human story that lies behind nearly all such artefacts? Surely such an approach is indispensable if we are to cast the net wider in search of those who might interest themselves in our outstanding collections. Does my noble friend agree that museum boards and staff need to redouble their efforts to persuade a sometimes reluctant public that museums are not just the preserve of the privileged, white middle classes? To that end, should not the governing boards of museums and galleries themselves more accurately reflect the UK’s mixed profile? And with respect to staff, should we not do more to encourage both existing staff and new recruits to curating to expand their professional horizons, perhaps by exchanges between national, regional and local museums—and, indeed, with those abroad, especially in Europe and America? A practical start might be more Clore fellowships, which are currently oversubscribed by 16 to one.

There is also a case for improving salary levels and pay structures in the profession. Unlike nurses, the staff may not save lives, but they certainly improve them. Will my noble friend devise strategies to secure a better balance between national, regional and local museums and galleries? At the moment there is a postcode lottery whereby a Londoner is privileged to the disadvantage of country dwellers and those who live in towns short of museums. An active programme of travelling exhibitions, plus outreach London galleries such as the wonderful Tate Liverpool, would mitigate that disparity. It is also true that interesting and varied travelling exhibitions have enormous potential for encouraging new audiences as well as repeat visits.

One beneficial though perhaps counter-intuitive aspect of the free-entry policy has been the spur to entrepreneurialism within national museums. For instance, the Tate now generates 60 per cent of its own income. How does my noble friend propose that we build on this entrepreneurial—indeed, risk-taking—approach and cascade down good ideas to other, slumbering museums and galleries? What do the Government consider are the possibilities of using digital technology and the internet to bring in new visitors? This is clearly a point of entry for many young people who are more adept at surfing online than standing in line outside unwelcoming museums.

Will the Government provide more cash for museums, perhaps linked to rewarding risk-taking, to match their general thrust of building stable communities? After all, the best local and national museums reflect established and developing communities. Greater use of these public places for meetings unrelated to the arts would be another way to bring people into museums. Why not, for instance, use galleries to perform citizens’ ceremonies for those who have pledged to adopt Britain as their home country?

The generation of income for our galleries and museums leads me to the fertile field of encouraging donors—the subject of an excellent address last week by Minister of State, Margaret Hodge. Only 4 per cent

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of charitable giving is steered towards the arts, and two-thirds of that stays in London-based institutions. We need to do more to bring the worlds of business and the arts together. But how about explaining to boardrooms that concern for the arts can be their business? Government can promote this by dusting off the Goodison report and devising a conducive tax regime. They should be more forthcoming in acknowledging beneficial giving through the honours system or, indeed, by encouraging museums to use donors’ names to adorn the institutions they have supported, as has football entrepreneur, John Madejski, at the Royal Academy.

In conclusion, the Government have blazed a magnificent trail in their enlightened policy of according free entry to our national museums. As the Prime Minister tellingly said, our party is best when it is at its boldest. Let us build on this magnificent start. I beg to move for Papers.

3.50 pm

Baroness Hooper: My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, to whom we are greatly indebted for introducing this debate, I approach the subject of museums with a particular knowledge of Liverpool. As well as having been the Member of the European Parliament for Liverpool following the first direct elections in 1979, and in that capacity having helped to secure regional funding for the then very small maritime museum on the dockside, I subsequently became a trustee of the then National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, now known as the National Museums Liverpool, and I continue to serve on its development trust. Again like the noble Lord, Lord Harrison—perhaps not today but on previous occasions—I rejoice in the fact that Liverpool has been designated European Capital of Culture this year. That designation has greatly helped to give a focus and a deadline and additional funding for some of our long-term projects in relation to the museums and galleries.

In that respect, I point in particular to the transatlantic slavery gallery within the Merseyside Maritime Museum, to which the noble Lord referred. It was reopened and extended in August last year with perfect timing to coincide with International Slavery Remembrance Day and the special recognition of the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in this country. I also point to the World Museum Liverpool. Anyone who has been there and watched the faces of children going around the exhibits, which are interactive and very attractive to young people, will have seen what a terrific success it is. In addition, there is the Museum of Liverpool Life, which is still being worked on.

Museums can be magic. I believe that they are a vital part of our educational process and, indeed, of our cultural life, particularly in the current dialogue on intercultural activity. The fantastic improvements in display and attractiveness and in the use of technical methods to put messages across are absolutely mind-boggling. Whenever and wherever I travel in the world, whether for business or pleasure, one of the first things I do is to find out how to access the local museum so that I can begin to feel more at home and more in sympathy with the environment in which I find myself.

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Perhaps I may go back to the many debates and Parliamentary Questions that we had in your Lordships’ House in the 1990s on the subject of free admission to museums, when we sought more government support and funding. Then, Liverpool had, and I think still has, the only national museum outside London, and admission was free, except for special exhibitions. However, in part because of the VAT issue—your Lordships may remember that it meant that, without charging for admissions, museums could not reclaim on their VAT expenditure—we were very much out of pocket. Very reluctantly, as trustees, we decided to make a modest charge in order to be able to reclaim that substantial VAT figure. We made the best possible use of season tickets, family tickets and multiple tickets as well as making special arrangements for schools and special interest groups. Interestingly, once the charges were administered, at the beginning attendance at some of the smaller and less well known locations went up. There are eight different parts to the museums and galleries in Liverpool and people obviously thought they would get the best value possible out of the admission ticket they had paid for. Eventually numbers flattened out.

I was delighted when the Government decided in 2001 to give additional financial support to enable National Museums Liverpool as well as the other national museums in London to revert to a free-entry policy. The noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, as well as the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, before him, was very much involved in this successful process.

Widening access by skilful marketing and ever more attractive display techniques has, as well as the free entry, led to dramatic increases in numbers, especially of schoolchildren. The fact that the national curriculum encourages schoolchildren to attend museums as part of their coursework has been an additional advantage because, once someone is used to going to a museum, they will increasingly go to a museum somewhere else which may not be on their doorstep. By the same token, the in some cases costly requirements of access for disabled people are often not thought about when considering the running costs of museums and galleries but are vital, especially where the museum’s collection is housed in an old and historic building.

Turning to wider horizons, to see how people cope in other countries, I think that it is vital that museums’ policy should have an international flavour because co-operation between museums, exchanges of exhibits and so on can very much improve displays in any museum. It also encourages us to remember that we have a common cultural heritage in certain parts of the world; I refer in particular to other European countries. Can the Minister give us any comparative data on national museums in other countries? Tourists such as myself sometimes have to pay very high admission charges there, whereas tourists in this country visiting our national museums have free access in the same way as everybody else. I do not know whether any study has been done on this but I know that, in the Council of Europe, there is a move to encourage free admission to museums on the basis of the valuable contribution they can make to international understanding and good will as well as to education in general.

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