HC Deb 18 June 1891 vol 354 cc798-9
*MR. DE LISLE (Leicestershire, Mid)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, inasmuch as pictures purchased for the benefit of the nation by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest are housed in one of the public National Galleries, he would state if there is any constitutional method by which the control of the nation over the selection of pictures can be exercised; and whether Her Majesty's Government will take into consideration the published protest of the Duke of Norfolk, in the name of the Catholic Union, against the purchase for the nation of a picture purporting to represent an incident in the life of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, which has given offence to Roman Catholics generally and not a few others? I must apologise to this honourable House for having to bring to its notice a work of imagination which, in my judgment, is nothing short of obscene and blasphemous and ridiculous.


Order, order!


There is no method by which the control of the nation over the selection of the pictures can be exercised.


May I ask whether, in case a picture is considered by a large section of the public to be obscene and blasphemous, public opinion has no means of making itself felt in such circumstances, and of protesting, in the public interest, against the exhibition of such a picture in a national gallery?


The hon. Gentleman is hardly correct in calling the picture national property. It is acquired by the Chantrey Trustees in the exercise of the duties devolved upon them under the Chantrey bequest. Public opinion does exercise considerable influence over the gentlemen placed in this position, and I should be exceeding loth to encourage any suggestion that it is desirable for the Government to interfere with the free exercise of responsibility by trustees in discharging their trusts. These gentlemen are already in the full and strong light of public opinion.

MR. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)

I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is a fact that at Shrewsbury, on the 14th of April, the Duke of Norfolk referred to in the question was present at a demonstration where the toast of the health of the Pope was given before that of the Queen?

[No answer was returned.]