§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Sir E. CORNWALL in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purpose of any Act of the present Session to make provision for the management of the Imperial War Museum and for other purposes connected therewith, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenses incurred by the Trustees of the Imperial War Museum in carrying the Act into effect, including any salaries or remuneration paid to the Director-General and the Curator of the Museum, and to any officers of the Trustees.
§ The FIRST COMMISSIONER of WORKS (Sir Alfred Mond)
This Resolution, which arises out of the Imperial War Museums Bill, is really a formal Resolution, but I would like to clear up one point which does not seem to have been understood by all. The Imperial War Museum was established three years ago and a Committee has been managing its affairs. The Estimates for its upkeep and the payment of salaries, subject naturally to Treasury approval, have come before the House regularly year after year, and naturally will come before the House again in the proper time. What the Bill is intended to do, and what this Resolution is intended to carry out, is to substitute for the Committee which now exists a more formal Board of Trustees with more definitely regulated powers. Therefore we are not asking the Committee to authorise any new expenditure or any expenditure which has not 519 been incurred at the present time. In fact, we consider that when the Board of Trustees is established and when the Museum is in a more definite and concrete shape, the amount of money which will be required in order to maintain it will be considerably less than the Estimates that have been voted in times gone past when we have had to create it.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I believe that I am right in saying that we ought to have some estimate of what is the sum of money which we are being asked to vote. If the right hon. Baronet had informed us that it was difficult to estimate it I would have accepted that, but if he can give us an estimate I think the Committee should have it. We are informed that the sum will be less in future than has been voted in the past. I daresay that it is very wrong of me; but in the multitude of estimates that are presented, sometimes in a very complicated and puzzling manner, I cannot remember how much we voted, probably in the small hours of the morning last year, for the War Museum Committee, and I would be very much obliged if the right hon. Baronet would tell us the amount now required. I am thoroughly opposed to this Bill and the financial resolution on which it depends, and I had the pleasure of dividing the House against the Bill on the Second Reading. I accepted the vote of the House, and I do not intend to go into the merits or demerits of the Bill now. I would point out that we may now be approving in theory a considerable sum, because I see that under the Bill the Board of Trustees have the power of purchasing land, they can exchange, sell or dispose of duplicate objects belonging to the museum, they can set up buildings, and altogether it is a larger proposal than the words of the right hon. Baronet might lead the Committee to suppose. I take exception to one expression of the First Commissioner. He said it is not new expenditure, because we are continuing the expenditure of last year and the year before. That is exactly the spirit in which the thousands of officials in the dozens and scores of Government Departments would strangle the country by their extravagance. They are trying to keep to War expenditure; they are trying to maintain War stocks and War buildings and even War hotels, because it was done last year. The whole 520 country has been staggered by the toll taken of the finances of the country in the crushing taxation which was disclosed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Monday. I had the honour of being present to-day at the meeting of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Great Britain, and I talked to a number of gentlemen representing great undertakings in this country.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
That might be. I certainly profited by theirs. As they invited me to dinner, I suppose I did not make myself altogether objectionable to them. I do not pretend at any time to be able to teach the leading lights of commerce in the leading commercial nation of the world anything at all. Perhaps the hon and learned Member for Bristol (Mr. Inskip) is able to do so in his professional capacity. They are one and all extremely alarmed at the financial position of the country. We should look twice and thrice at any expenditure, and if we think it unnecessary expenditure or parasitical expenditure we should insist on more facts and more figures.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I would like to know whether in future the First Commissioner of Works will answer for the expenditure of the money to be authorised under this Resolution. The various museums and galleries of London are under various Ministers and various Government representatives on the Treasury Bench. For instance, South Kensington Museum comes under the President of the Board of Education, and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury looks after the British Museum and the National Gallery. The various museums and their Votes are accounted for all over the Estimates. It would be very much more satisfactory if they could all be transferred to the First Commissioner of Works, and if every year all the Estimates could appear together, so that we could know exactly how we are spending money on the various museums. That reform is very much needed. Some of the museums, particularly the National Gallery, have been practically starved in the past for want of someone to look after their interests and press their claims in this House.
§ Sir A. MOND
I imagine that this Vote will be accounted for by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, as in the past. I have been Chairman of the Imperial War Committee, but it is really not the function of the First Commissioner any longer. The First Commissioner is not a Trustee of the National Gallery or of the British Museum; he has no control over the staff or over purchases, and it would be quite impossible for him to reply to a vote which is under the control of the Treasury I agree that it might be more convenient, perhaps, if some Minister was made responsible for all the museums. South Kensington Museum, I understand, has always been looked upon as an educational institution. Hence it is answered for by the President of the Board of Education. In reply to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), I would mention that I am not asking for any money. What the Financial Resolution does is to provide that, subject to Treasury sanction, the trustees may apply to this House for money. Unless this House votes the money they do not get it, and the money must be voted on the Estimate in the usual way. If my hon. and gallant Friend was industrious, he would find the Imperial War Museum Vote in Class 4, No. 7, of the Civil Services Votes, and he would find the amount which it is intended to ask the House to vote and the amount voted last year I can quite understand he would like some kind of estimate. I will say frankly that I have been going into this matter, but it is very difficult in the transition period to frame any kind of definite estimate for the future. The total Estimate last year was £64,000. The Estimates for this year are £50,000. That includes a large amount of money for the purchase of exhibits and the transport of exhibits—items which will disappear, and also the salaries and wages of the establishment will come down considerably, I am informed, when we have once got over the period of installation, the cataloguing of exhibits, and all that kind of work. I do not want to name any figure because I cannot name a reliable figure. It is reaily not quite fair for the hon. and gallant Member to state that I say this is not new money, as if I had said it with any sinister object. I am merely stating the fact. The House of Commons is pursuing a precedent, good or bad.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I think we should have information as to the cost of these matters, because very often the Votes do not come before the House for discussion, or, when they do, the House may be empty. I have not got the faintest idea as to where the permanent collection is going to be located. Is it to be at the Crystal Palace, or is there to be a special building for the purpose? That is the sort of information we ought to have if we are to keep our control over expenditure.
§ Mr. INSKIP
I rather think that not only is the hon. Member for Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) justified in asking for information, but I think the House might be justified in saying that there is no need for the expenditure of money on this war museum. It is very difficult to know where to curtail expenditure, and when the House is told that this is a small sum which is negligible, one is inclined to assent to the remark. But sooner or later we have to make a start, and I think some hon. Members are beginning to feel that they must oppose expenditure, be it great or small, as soon as they can discover expenditure which is not essential to the upkeep of the country. I never forget what the Leader of the House said on one occasion. He told us however many things we may desire to do we must remember that we cannot do everything, and that we have to do only these things which are essential. An Imperial War Museum should be made to pay by voluntary subscriptions or by the payments of persons who visit it. It will not be for education but for interest. If the museum cannot be supported in that way I am inclined to think it would be better for the country to do without it. I do not know whether the House is prepared to resist this Resolution or only one or two Members. I wish the right hon. Gentleman could see his way with the great power which he has to enlist sympathy in the right quarters, to make this Museum a voluntary institution and not place it on the money so urgently needed in connection with other enterprises.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
Would it be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to give us some more information about the financial side? I have no interest in the Imperial War Museum and 523 I think most people are tired of the whole business. That is my feeling about it. Are the members of the Board to receive any fee of any kind? I do not know. Does the sum of £50,000 include moneys spent for the acquisition of objects for the Museum, or is it the running cost? What is going to be the annual charge for running it? As regards the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about the Estimates, I venture to think there is a great difference between an expenditure authorised by Statute and an expenditure which merely appears in the Votes. When this appears in the Votes the right hon. Gentleman will say "You cannot possibly object to this item, because Parliament has passed a special Act of Parliament in order that the item should exist." When the special Act comes forward, the right hon. Gentleman says: "You cannot object to it because it will come forward in the Estimates." This is the time when we should extract the information we desire, and I think the House would most willingly hear some more particulars from the right hon. Baronet.
§ Sir A. MOND
I am pleased to give what information I can. In reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs), who asked me a very pertinent question, all I can say is that an arrangement has been made with the Crystal Palace for four years for the Museum to be housed there. Personally, I should very much regret if the country and the House did not in time think it fit that the one great memorial of the War, upon which so much labour has already been spent, should find that proper housing which it deserves, but that is not for me to say now. It would be for the Trustees to consider the policy as to the future housing of the Museum. The hon. and gallant Member opposite (Captain W. Benn), who took a most distinguished part in the War, says he does not want to hear anything more about the War, but we are not dealing with the present time. We are dealing with the hon. and gallant Gentleman's great-grandchildren, who will be intensely interested to see the aeroplane in which their distinguished ancestor flew in the Great War. That is the view which we have taken of the matter and which we must take. It is not an institution for now, it is not a show for the present day, 524 but a great record of a great Empire's greatest sacrifice. The historians of the future, when they want material for this period of the world's history, will go to the only institution of the kind which will have the equipment, the records, the photographs, and the history of the greatest event the world has ever seen. I have been asked what is the estimated expense. I do not like, as I say, to give an estimate, because I have asked for figures, and I have not been able to obtain any very reliable figures, but if hon. Members will forgive me should I not be very accurate, I can mention that the present estimate which I have is that the expenditure will be something like £20,000 a year.
§ Sir A. MOND
No. The rent of the Crystal Palace is £25,000 a year. That is taken now for four years. We have taken over from the Ministry of Information a considerable staff for handling the photographs of the War. One of the great difficulties we have had to contend with has been the selection of materials. Hon. Members know the vast amount of materials of all kind there is connected with the War. The Committee and Sub-Committees who have gone into the matter have done most careful work, for which I desire to return my best thanks. The Air Force alone put up demands which would have filled a bigger building than the Crystal Palace itself, and many of the things they wished to exhibit have had to be illustrated by models. I ask hon. Members to have a little patience, and they will be able to see in a few weeks what the museum is, and I am convinced, once they have seen it, I will never hear any more opposition. It is really a great work, and would never have been accomplished without the willing aid of a very large number of people, and generous assistance given from many quarters. One of the greatest artists of this country presented us, not with one picture, but with a series of pictures, and other gifts have been made. Having embarked on this, I cannot believe hon. Members will stand in the way of the expenditure.
As one returned to this House somewhat recently as what may be called an "anti-waste" candidate, I 525 think the Committee has a right to examine somewhat closely the statement of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir A. Mond). After all, he gives what he says is merely a rough estimate. He mentioned that the figure would be £20,000. Before he had finished, however, I noticed he put on another £5,000 as the possible cost of the upkeep of this museum. If there is one vote the country might be willing to give it would be a vote for this wonderful museum, described so eloquently by the right hon. Gentleman; but if this museum is wanted by the nation, does it not occur to the right hon. Gentleman that it might be possible to keep it in existence by voluntary subscription—this permanent memorial to the heroism and mechanism which contributed to win the War? We are sent to the House of Commons at the present moment to do all we can to keep down public expenditure. I can quite sympathise with hon. Members who have taken exception to this museum, for we should examine with meticulous care every estimate which comes before us. To-day we have been discussing a huge Budget. It has been complained that, while the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been putting forward new proposals for taxation, we have not heard a word from him in regard to saving or having a reduction of expenditure. Perhaps it is not the duty of the Chancellor at the moment to put forward anything more than proposals for new taxation to meet our expenditure. It is, however, the duty of the Government to take every opportunity to keep down the cost of the services of this country. After all, this war museum is a luxury. If we are maintaining this museum for posterity, let posterity bear some part in its cost. Let those of us who believe in this museum as a great permanent national memorial by our voluntary aid pay for it, and not put the cost upon the taxpayers of the country who are so heavily burdened.
Mr. J. JONES
I was very pleased to listen to the speech just delivered. The hon. Member for the Wrekin Division is a past-master in the art of advocating economy. But may I suggest that, as far as this particular matter is concerned, we are now advocating the establishment of a war museum, and I can certainly imagine that those who were responsible for advocating war to the bitter end 526 would be the best advocates of a continuation of the war museum. The hon. Member who has just sat down is one of those who wants the Germans to pay. Then why not have the museum for the purpose of establishing the fact that the Germans must pay. Add the up-keep to the German bill! The hon. Member is a member of—
An absolutely patriotic party—a party so patriotic that it always believes in doing its best for itself. Having subscribed to that patriotic policy they necessarily believe that everybody else ought to do the same. What is this museum for? I hope the time will come when all those who have advocated war as a method of settling international difficulties will themselves find that they have got a Madame Tussauds of their own. I only supported the War because I believed it was the least of two evils. Now we discover that we have in this country a Prussianism going on just as bad as the Prussianism against which we fought. In so far as the First Commissioner of Works is responsible for this Vote, I want to congratulate him upon the fact that his principal opponents to-night are those who shouted most for the War.
I am not referring to the hon. Member, because I never know exactly what situation he occupies. This desire for economy reminds me of the story of the Scotchman who used the wart on the back of his neck for a collar stud, but unfortunately septic poisoning set in and he died as a result of his experiment. What is the object of this proposition? It is to record the victories won in the War. If hon. Members think that is a bad thing, why not say so? If you vote against this, then you should vote against the Vote for the United Services Museum. I believe the salaries for that institution are put in the Estimates.
As far as that museum is concerned, it is only a place for politi- 527 cians and statesmen who think they are going to be something in the future. As far as I am personally concerned, I am quite prepared to say that if they want the War to be remembered, let them pay; but the last people who ought to object are those who have been the most enthusiastic advocates of the War. We are going to have a record of what has happened during the War. I shall support the right hon. Gentleman opposite in his desire to have a museum, and I only hope that all those who advocate war will be preserved in glass cases.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed.