Tá fíor áthas orm a bheith ar ais sa Seanad leis an mBille um Fhorais Chultúir Náisiúnta, 1996. I am very pleased to be back in the Seanad with the National Cultural Institutions Bill, 1996, which had been introduced in the Seanad. I was very appreciative of Senators' constructive work and input into the Bill during the course of the debates and look forward to this one today.
Since the National Cultural Institutions Bill, 1996, was passed by the Seanad before last Christmas, and in the course of debates in the Dáil, further amendments have been made to the Bill. These changes arise from discussions in the Dáil, representations made from various interests and ongoing internal re-examination of provisions within my Department. While some of the amendments are of a fairly substantial nature, they do not change the thrust of the Bill. They are designed to either deepen existing provisions or to move further in the direction set out in the Bill as initiated, and I commend them to the Seanad.
The amendments may be variously grouped. In the main they relate to a number of areas which will be familiar to Senators: care of the collections; the functions of the National Library; general admission charges; representation on each board for staff interests; definition and compilation of registered cultural objects; creation of record of such objects; export licensing provisions and mandatory deposit provisions; and care and custody of archaeological objects by local authorities. Other tidying up provisions of a broadly technical or drafting nature are also being made in various amendments. It may help if I refer to the topics covered by groups of amendments.
Grouping the substantive amendments in broadly chronological order, first, a series of technical drafting amendments are being made that will replace phraseology in the form of "objects in the collection of a Board" with alternative phraseology in the form of "objects in the collection of the Museum or the Library as the case may be". This is to change the emphasis from board to institution concerned, while taking care not to change the substance of what is proposed. I should explain that either type of phrase in the Bill does not constitute ownership as ownership of objects is not being transferred by the Bill.
References had been to the board rather than the institution simply because that is the corporate body being established. However, it had been represented on Committee Stage in the Dáil that the emphasis on this point should be on the institution rather than on the board, and I can accept this. These amendments occur throughout the Bill, in sections 2, 11, 16, 18 and 47; and for ease of reference the amendments are numbered 1, 2, 3, 5 to 13, inclusive, 17 to 19, inclusive; 22 to 25, inclusive; 29 to 35, inclusive, and 47.
Amendments were also made to section 12, widening the functions of the National Library to make it clear that while the primary functions of the board are in relation to material relating to Ireland, it should also have a role in contributing, in co-operation with other libraries, to enlarging human knowledge generally. This could be done, for example, by way of inter-library loans, both with libraries in Ireland and outside the country. A power to engage in such inter-library loans is made explicit in another amendment to section 12. This is to allow the Library to enter into inter-library loan agreements outside the State at its own discretion. Other agreements outside the State are covered by section 12(2)(k) which allows the Library to enter into such agreements with the consent of the Minister.
Section 14 deals with the issue of general admission charges. It provides for by-laws in respect of general admission charges to the National Museum and National Library. This issue has given rise to a considerable amount of debate and I am pleased to be in a position to have taken a further initiative in section 14 to ensure that the maximum amount of real public access can be secured should any general entry charge system be contemplated by the boards of the Museum, Library or Gallery.
The initiative takes the form of criteria which must be taken into account before any scheme of general entry charge can be introduced. Any scheme must still ensure an enhanced quality of service to the public on a sustainable basis and actively contribute to the level of appreciation of the collection concerned within the Irish public as a whole. These provisions are to ensure that the primary aims and objectives of the Bill — to contribute to a widening and deepening of sensibilities in relation to the collections — are amply met. The other significant item in the criteria is the need to ensure a reasonable degree of access without charge for children in particular, described in the relevant amendment as "persons under the age of 18 years of age".
These amendments are in addition to that already provided in section 14, following the Seanad debate, that no general entry charges can be introduced by a board unless approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas. Short of an absolute statutory prohibition, this is the maximum regulatory protection that can be afforded. This recognises that, if it should arise, it would be a major policy issue that should and would be considered by the Oireachtas.
Another amendment to section 14 provides that in any by-law being framed on this issue there will be the option to introduce different scales of charges. As presently worded, it could be interpreted that no such discretion was possible.
Section 17 deals with guidelines for Museum loans to include bodies. In the section, amendments of a largely drafting nature ensure that in the drawing up of guidelines by the National Museum for the loan of artefacts, there will be a broad interpretation of the meaning of the word "institution" so as to ensure inclusion of all relevant bodies with a cultural remit.
Section 19 deals with staff involvement on the boards of the institutions referred to. In the section a novel and important measure for involving the staff of the National Museum and National Library on their respective boards is now being provided for. I am taking this initiative because I accept that as stakeholders in their respective institutions the staff concerned should be actively encouraged to obtain a direct insight and input into the various processes and operation of boards in their respective institutions. It was always my intention to make appropriate provision for staff involvement on the board through administrative action, but it has been represented that this should be on a statutory basis. While I am not absolutely convinced that a statutory route is necessarily the best or only way in which to involve the staff interests in the operation of the boards, I am anxious to provide a structure that permits the staff to have a staff member on the board on an ongoing basis. Action by way of legislation is at least a way of providing a reassurance to the staff as to a commitment to a direct engagement in the longer term. This can only be to the mutual benefit of both the staff, the board and the public.
The approach I have decided to take to the issue of staff representation is similar to the approach I have adopted in respect of the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Dublin Society. A panel of nominees will be provided from which the Minister will select one to serve in a personal capacity.
Section 23 deals with the length and conditions of service of advisory committees. An amendment has been made to section 23 which provides for limitations on length of service of advisory committee members, and provision for terms and conditions of service. The purpose of this amendment is to provide a reasonable limitation on the length of service that may be provided by a person on the readers advisory committee of the National Library and on the general public advisory committee of the National Museum. The restriction is similar to what is provided in respect of membership of either board. It is also being provided that the terms and conditions of service would be as determined by the relevant board. Technical or drafting amendments are made in sections 19, 23 and 29.
An amendment is made to section 42 in relation to the definition of a cultural object. In the text as passed by the Seanad, the definition includes, as well as museum heritage objects and library material, any object or thing considered appropriate to be exhibited by a relevant institution. While this should cover all relevant objects, there may be some objects which would never be appropriate for exhibition but would be collected or borrowed or held for other purposes — for example, for research purposes. This amendment will widen the definition to include objects considered appropriate to be exhibited or kept by a relevant institution.
Amendments to section 48 include the Irish Manuscripts Commission among the bodies that may be requested by the Minister to put forward lists of objects for inclusion on the register of important cultural objects. Given the commission's important role in relation to historical documents, this seems appropriate. The aim of other amendments to section 48 is to create a record of important heritage objects held outside the State. This is to allow for the recording of important Irish moveable heritage artefacts wherever they are situated outside the State. The purpose is to provide a structured system for identification of such objects situated outside the State while not attempting to extend any jurisdictional or control application to outside the State. These amendments should be seen as being of a symbolic nature, recognising and signifying that what is important to the heritage of Ireland cannot be limited by considerations of geographical location.
Section 49 deals with export licences. Some amendments to section 49 are primarily a tidying up exercise arising from the partial repeal in section 6 of this Bill of export licence provisions in relation to archaeological objects. Section 25(4) of the National Monuments Act, 1930, as inserted by section 14 of the National Monuments Act, 1954, and which is still in place, permits the Minister of the day to declare for export licence purposes that an object is an archaeological object. Another provision in that same section declares that the decision in this matter cannot be challenged. I am providing that all the elements relating to export licences should be consolidated in this Bill. The amendments being proposed will mean that the entire section 24 is repealed and re-enacted in an amended form in section 49. A small consequential amendment in section 6, amendment No. 4, is also required by this action. In re-enacting the archaeological object declaration provision into section 49 of the Bill, I am also availing of the opportunity to repeal the prohibition on a challenge to any such declaration, which prohibition it seems to be difficult to justify.
Another amendment to section 49 seeks to provide a reasonable measure of flexibility so that certain categories of cultural object coming within the scope of the export licence requirement do not unnecessarily become subject to the export licence requirement. An example of what would be envisaged to be cited under this heading would be cultural objects imported into the State temporarily for the purpose of exhibition and sale.
This proposed legislative structure for making exclusions from the export licence requirement also provides a general framework for the citing of other instances where export licensing would not be considered appropriate. The use of this provision will be focused as clearly as possible on the cultural imperatives involved.
Another amendment to section 49 adds "burial and cemetery records" to the example of documents quoted for the purpose of export licences. Genealogical interests had expressed their concern to me that the definition in the Bill would not include such records. While I am satisfied the term "document" is broad enough to cover these, it is useful, in view of the concerns expressed, to make this specific. Other amendments to section 49 are of a technical or drafting nature. The most significant one is to ensure any new category of cultural object made subject to the export licence requirement will be included in the provision contained in section 49 (4) permitting licensable classes of cultural objects to be excluded from the licence requirement.
I undertook in the Dáil debate — and I am pleased to reiterate it here — that I will provide by order that, where a licence is not issued after a period of six months following an application, the objects in the question will be deemed to be exempt from the licence requirement. I repeat here an undertaking given in the Dáil that before implementing the export licence provisions I will consult with the relevant trade interests involved, including the Irish Antique Dealers' Association.
In relation to export licence requirements for certain types of cultural objects, amendments to section 50 allow a time limit to be specified for the validity of an export licence and make it obligatory to comply with conditions for issue of the licence, that is, apart from the condition that the registered cultural object in question may not be exported before one year has elapsed since the date of application for said licence. There is provision for penalties in the event of non-com-pliance. The amendment allowing for a time limit for use of a licence is to facilitate trading in cultural objects. It will allow a trader to get an open licence in advance for an object — for example, a painting — a licence which then could be used if the painting was purchased for export. This would mean a dealer would not have to wait until such time as an object was bought for export to request a licence.
There are also drafting amendments to section 50.
Amendments to section 51 empower the Minister to delegate export licensing functions to the Heritage Council. These will have the effect of including the Heritage Council alongside the National Museum, National Gallery, Irish Museum of Modern Art, National Library and National Archives as bodies to whom the Minister could delegate some of his export licensing functions. While at present it is not envisaged that such functions would be delegated to the Heritage Council, it may be that in the future, as the council's role develops, it might be appropriate for it to take on such functions. These amendments leave this option open.
A technical amendment to section 60 concerning the National Gallery clarifies that the Governors and Guardians of the National Gallery, when disposing of property other than the cultural objects in the collection of the National Gallery, only require the consent of the Minister when disposing of land or of an interest in land, including buildings, and not when disposing of any other property, excluding paintings.
An amendment to section 62 concerning liquor on-licences extends the ownership criteria for premises for which certain listed institutions can get liquor on-licences to those vested in the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht as well as the Commissioners of Public Works. The Bill envisages that the only premises for which such licences would be granted would be premises vested in the State. While currently where the institutions concerned occupy State-owned premises these premises are vested in the Commissioners of Public Works, certain other State properties are vested in the Minister. It is not envisaged that there would be any change in this arrangement. However, it is considered desirable to allow for the possibility that at some time in the future some of the State-owned premises occupied by the relevant institutions might be vested in the Minister.
Technical amendments to the mandatory deposit provisions contained in section 65 permit the Minister to activate the mandatory deposit provisions pending the establishment of the board of the Library, since there will be an inevitable time lag following the enactment of the Bill before the board will be formally established. Other amendments are designed to fine-tune the mandatory deposit provisions as they effect books and other library material while at the same time providing some extra flexibility when the provision is being operated by the National Library.
The amendments provide that the provision which widens the definition of publisher as set out in (b) of the definition on page 42 of the Bill as passed by the Seanad will only apply in respect of the National Library rather than all the institutions listed in the Copyright Act, 1963, and that paragraph (b) will only apply where the Library requests such material, whether in the form of books as defined in the Copyright Act, 1963, or the types of library material covered in section 65 of this Bill. The amendments also provide for a time limit of one year following publication for the making of a request.
The basic time limit of one month for deposit of the library material, other than in the form of books, after publication is also proposed to be extendable at the discretion of the National Library. The possibility of a longer time limit is seen as desirable. It had been represented by certain interests as alleviating fears of film interests where there might be a reluctance to make a deposit of a film reel in mint condition while the film in question still held a strong commercial value, as would be the case shortly after its general release.
Amendments of a technical and drafting nature to section 66 bring up to date various references in section 56 of the Copyright Act, 1963, which deals with mandatory deposit of books.
Sections 68 and 69 deal with the care and custody of archaeological objects in the ownership of the State. Section 68 has been amended so as to set out a relationship between local authority museums, the National Museum and the Minister where the care of archaeological objects is concerned. The amendment concerns the charge and custody of archaeological objects in the ownership of the State found since the passing of the 1994 National Monuments (Amendment) Act. The amendment sets out the respective relationships which are to apply between a museum operated by a local authority, the National Museum and the Minister, the latter as the owner of the objects in question in the name of the people.
In general, the scheme provides a means whereby, without compromising the principle that the State owns the objects, the archaeological object involved may be held under the permanent control of either a local authority museum or in the National Museum, depending on whether the objects is predominantly of local or national interest.
Under the scheme it is proposed that the Director of the National Museum would decide on a designation for a local authority museum with the consent of the Minister. Once an object is found and reported to the Director, the Director would decide, in consultation with the nearest designated local authority museum involved, which museum should hold the object on a permanent basis. In the event of a dispute between them, the matter would be referred to the Minister for his or her decision, which would be final. There is also a proposed enablement for the Minister to make regulations governing the monitoring of the objects in the care of the local museum.
The amendment arises from local museum interests which have expressed concern that the effects of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994 have been that archaeological objects of predominantly local significance are claimable by the National Museum and that only the Director of the Museum can decide where they are to be kept. While there is already a power of designation under the 1994 Act providing that the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht can designate where such objects may be held for "safe keeping", this provision was always envisaged to be utilised in emergency situations only.
This amendment should be read in conjunction with amendments to the mechanism in section 47(5) of the Bill, as passed by the Seanad, for the resolution of disputes concerning the custody of archaeological objects owned by the State and held by any public authority from before the enactment of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994. Section 47(5) provides a mechanism for resolving disputes between a public authority and the National Museum concerning which museum should hold State owned archaeological objects. This procedure, which I introduced in the Seanad, was considered necessary to deal with potential situations of dispute regarding the State's claim to ownership of archaeological objects found since 1930, when controls were first imposed by the Irish State, but before 1994.
The amendments to section 47(5) made in the Dáil are to be found in section 69, as I have taken the opportunity afforded by these initiatives to relocate subsection 47(5), as amended, more appropriately. The preceding section 68 concerns the care of the archaeological objects found in the State after the passing of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994. The provision to be relocated deals with such objects found before the passing of the 1994 Act.
The amendments to section 69 drop the five year rule and substitute the Minister for the Heritage Council as the determining authority in respect of the arbitration role, while retaining a consultation role for the Heritage Council. A five year limit had been incorporated within the disputes procedure only because it was not anticipated that a situation of dispute would arise in that period. However, the five year limit has given rise to interpretative difficulty and is now being dropped from the Bill. Making the Minister the determining authority arises out of the Minister's role as the owner of the archaeological objects found in the State and is consistent with the amendment to section 68 providing for a system of designation for local authority museums in respect of archaeological objects found after the enactment of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994.
The package of amendments are all designed to create a more integrated structure of regulation for the charge and custody of archaeological objects owned by the State which have been found in the State since the enactment of the National Monuments Act, 1950. I am also making minor adjustments to the Schedules contained in the Bill. An amendment to the First Schedule corrects an omission in the compilation of the list of core repositories cited in the Schedule. The inclusion of the National History Museum building arises out of the National Gallery Act, 1854, which included provision for the erection of a public museum in Dublin. The building erected pursuant to this provision was opened in 1856 and now forms one of the core buildings of the National Museum. It was handed over to the State by the Royal Dublin Society under the provisions of the Dublin Science and Art Museum Act, 1877.
An amendment to the Third Schedule therefore also includes costumes among the list of objects in the Third Schedule for export licence purchases. In discussion with interest groups it was represented to me that this was a category that needed to be included.
I believe that the amendments now being proposed constitute a further significant strengthening of the Bill. Accordingly and in the same spirit in which the Bill was introduced to the Seanad, and again expressing my gratitude to Senators for having improved the Bill so much in discussions thus far, I have no hesitation in commending these amendments for its agreements.