HC Deb 14 July 1952 vol 503 cc1808-90

3.22 p.m.

Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)

The story I have to tell this afternoon is a very dismal story, and, like all dismal stories, it has a moral. The moral is, "Do not be taken in by your own parrot cries."

The Government, at the time of the General Election, told us that if they were returned they would make great economies in Government expenditure by cutting out waste. When they arrived in power, they found that there was no waste to cut out, and so they could not make any great cut in Government expenditure without affecting our essential services. They would not admit that they had made a mistake, but they plunged ahead, and they have now, over this matter of museums and art galleries, got themselves into a very nasty jam.

The museums and art galleries were told to make an arbitrary cut of their staffs as at 1st October, 1951. There was no prior consultation before they were told to make these arbitrary cuts, and most of them received the information in the form of a cyclostyled letter in which the figure of the cut was filled in in type. One museum, that of the Public Record Office, has had to close down completely, and other museums and art galleries have had to close part of their premises or open and close parts of them on alternate days, and impose other restrictions on the public.

Nothing like this has ever happened before in our history. Never before have so many museums and art galleries been compelled by any Government to impose restrictions on the public. And all this in order to save 84 people on the staff and £30,000 a year. When these announcements were made, there were, naturally, tremendous protests from those interested in the presevation of our culture. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury sought to justify these cuts in the House on 25th June by a very peculiar method of argument. He said that all museums and art galleries, taken together, had 59 more on their staffs today than they had before the war, and he went on to say that they had 277,000 square feet less of galleries to look after, because of losses due to enemy action, and that therefore there was no need whatever for them to have closed down any part of their premises.

The Financial Secretary looks at our heritage, our traditions and culture as a matter of arithmetic, and no doubt this Government would try to assess the artistic value of the Elgin Marbles by weight. In that case, there would be very little hope—if there are to be further cuts—for Magna Carta, because, although it is a very important document, it does not weigh very much.

According to his arithmetic, there was not the slightest need for any closing of museums or art galleries or for any restrictions to be imposed on the public. In fact—and this is a very serious departure—the Financial Secretary has charged the distinguished keepers and directors of our museums and art galleries with inefficiency. He has said that it is not his fault that there has been any closing, but that it is the fault of the people responsible for running the museums and art galleries. The Financial Secretary's arithmetic is "phoney." He has deliberately distorted the figures and given them a wrong meaning in order to cover up his own Government's stupidity.

Let us begin with the British Museum. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who is a trustee of the museum, will later on be dealing with the details of this situation, and there is only one aspect of the British Museum on which I want to touch. On 25th June, the Financial Secretary said that there are 18 more on the staff of the museum today than there were before the war. Therefore, he goes on, why the cuts, why the restrictions?

The British Museum is not a dead mausoleum; it is expanding tremendously. All the time there are new discoveries in the archeological field. Just before the war, the British Museum acquired the Sutton Hoo collection. They had to apportion part of their staff to the care and maintenance of the collection, to research into it, and, later on, to exhibit it. Since the war, the Museum has acquired the Mildenhall treasure, and again, that needed more staff. The National Library of the Museum has gone on expanding steadily, and, in fact, today it should have 60 more members of the staff in order to run it efficiently, because today readers in the British Museum Library have to wait two hours for a book, and that is not providing effective and efficient service for the public.

For the first time in 200 years, the galleries of the British Museum have had to be closed on alternate days. Since it was opened in 1753, we have had to wait for the arrival of a Tory Government for its facilities to be restricted to the public because the staff has now been cut by 22. The British Museum had no alternative, unless they were to cut down work on research—and perhaps the Government would like them to do that—or unless they were inadequately to care for the exhibits, or unless they were to refuse to take on or deal with any more discoveries. I hope the Government will not tell us that, if more discoveries are made in the archaeological field, the British Museum will not be allowed to accept them, because the purpose of the Museum is to expand and develop and not constrict itself.

Passing to the National Maritime Museum, the Financial Secretary said that it had eight more non-industrials on its staff than before the war. This museum was opened for the first time in 1937, and in 1938 it had no exhibits earlier than Queen Anne. Since 1939—and I think the Financial Secretary likes this kind of figure—the east wing has been open, which has meant that the floor space has gone up by 74 per cent. since before the war, and, in addition, exhibits of pre-Napoleonic times have been added. Visitors to the National Maritime Museum have gone up by 90 per cent.

Incidentally, visitors to all museums have roughly doubled in numbers since before the war, which is an important indication of the public interest shown in these museums and art galleries, and an indication that, in some respects they need more staff in order to supervise this greatly increased attendance.

The National Maritime Museum has had an increase in the staff which looks after and guards exhibits of only 50 per cent., while the increase in the floor space has been one of 74 per cent., and whilst the cleaners have come down in number by 10 per cent. Today the Queen's House of the National Maritime Museum, built by Inigo Jones and considered by many to be one of the finest examples of his work, has to be closed on alternate days with the east wing.

This closing of galleries, wings and houses on alternate days is not a trivial matter as the Financial Secretary tried to make out. It means that if one is a visitor from abroad and has only one day to spare to go to Greenwich, one can only see half the museum. Many people come from thousands of miles to see the Queen's House at Greenwich, and if they go on the wrong day they do not see it, but how are they to know before they get there whether it is the right or the wrong day? They cannot know. The Government of this country have reached such a pass that, in order to redeem their shallow election pledges, they have closed down the Queen's House at Greenwich.

I now turn to the Natural History Museum which, as the Financial Secretary told us, has 35 more people on its staff than before the war. The hon. Gentleman gave this figure in order to show that the museum could have no ground for complaint when these further cuts were imposed upon them. But that museum has enormously developed its work in research since before the war.

It is a scientific research institution of a very high grade indeed. Only the other day it discovered an entirely new mineral. At the moment it is engaged on a very big research project which may revolutionise fishery throughout the whole of Africa. All these things require staff. At the same time, its exhibits have vastly increased in number and so has the attendance at the museum. It has now had to close the Mammals Gallery which was opened last year for the Festival. It would not have had to close that gallery if it could have got the staff for it.

These three museums with which I have so far dealt are the three on which the Financial Secretary based his claim that there was more staff available to them than before the war. Why, therefore, he asked, were they having to close down any part of their facilities? The admitted increase in staff in those three museums as against before the war is 61, and the Financial Secretary claimed that there was an increase of 59 in staff for all the museums and art galleries. I think I have effectively disposed of the argument that, even with the same amount of staff or a lesser amount of staff, these three museums could perform their functions adequately.

Let us now come to the Public Records Office. The Financial Secretary said with some unction that there were 154 employed there after the cuts as against only 127 before the war. Then he added: Those figures speak for themselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1952; Vol. 502, c. 2411.] In other words, the Keeper and Deputy-Keeper of the Public Records Office are being inefficient in closing down their museum which was used by some 12,000 visitors a year. But the Public Records Office has obligations laid upon it by Act of Parliament. One of the things it has to do is to conserve and make available for study all the records of the central Government, and these are greatly increasing all the time.

At Chancery Lane alone there are 35 miles of shelving and 140 strong-rooms full of documents, and every day, in order that these documents may be preserved and properly ventilated, 140 doors have to be opened and shut and 800 ancient and not very easily managed windows also have to be opened and closed. But, in addition to this central part of the Public Records Office, there has been added since the war a new supplementary repository at Ashridge with 10 miles of shelving which, of course, did not have to be dealt with by the staff before the war because it did not exist. That repository includes everything that used to be at Canterbury before the war and a great deal more besides.

There is a further addition in the way of an intermediate repository now in preparation to which are now being consigned all the documents of the various Departments of State which are not in frequent use, but which are put into this repository and supervised by the Public Records Office so that they may be sorted against the time when they may finally be deposited in the Public Records Office itself. Again, that intermediate repository means that the Public Records Office needs more staff today because that repository did not exist before the war.

But that is not all that the Public Records Office has to do. Since the war it has set up a photographic section which, among other things, provides microfilms for students all over the world. At the moment it has a staff of 12 which did not exist before the war, and that staff is increasing. The Library of Congress and the National Archives of Canada are among their biggest customers. They pay dollars for these films. The section pays for itself and is not a charge on the Treasury, but the staff has to be listed on the Estimates and they are additional to the numbers before the war because, of course, the section did not exist at that time.

Here we have a situation in which the additional staff are far more than absorbed in doing additional work put upon the Public Records Office since the war. Is the Financial Secretary suggesting that the supplementary repository at Ashridge should be closed down? If so, he would have to introduce an Act of Parliament because Parliament has told the Records Office to maintain these documents, and the same applies to the intermediate repository. The only way they could keep the museum open would be by an Act of Parliament which relieved them of their obligations to keep these documents.

Even on the figures of the reduction which has taken place, the Financial Secretary misled the House. He said that their staff was reduced by only five. They have been reduced by 12. Last year's Estimate showed a figure of 166 for the Public Records Office and 154 from 166 is 12, not five, as the Financial Secretary, who ought to be better at figures than that, gave us to understand.

Of course, the Records Division have had to restrict their services to the public. They have had to close one of the three rooms open to students, and some would think more important than closing the museum to the public or closing a room used by students is the stopping of the work of indexing the 30 million documents in the Public Records Office. That work, as the Committee will understand, is extremely important because it is the only way in which documents can be catalogued, and it saves a vast amount of time and money for students and others attempting to do research.

I think it is one of the most shameful things for a Minister or a Government to blame civil servants for their own inefficiency and stupidity. To my knowledge it has never been done before in the House. This is an action taken by the Government, but the Financial Secretary comes to the House and tells us that his civil servants—and they are civil servants at the Public Records Office and unable to speak for themselves—have been inefficient and need not have closed down this museum. The figures do not speak for themselves. The figures which the Financial Secretary tried to give us presented an entirely different picture from the true one. I think it is dishonest and disgraceful to blame civil servants for actions forced upon them by Ministers themselves.

Let us now have a look at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The staff of the hard core of that museum works at its three permanent residences or buildings. That staff has been cut by 20 as against before the war. There has been no increase in staff there. This does not appear in the Estimates because the figures there appear to have gone up. The reason is that since the war three buildings have been added to the Victoria and Albert Museum for which they have become responsible, which makes, of course, an addition to the total staff. The buildings are Ham House, Apsley House and Osterley Park, for which the right hon. Lady the Minister of Education is responsible.

The Minister of Education (Miss Florence Horsbrugh)

I am responsible for all of them.

Mr. Wyatt

I hope the right hon. Lady is not proud of what she has been doing.

Because of this cut, Osterley Park—held by many to be the finest example of the work of the Adam brothers and which was bought by the National Trust and acquired by them after the war, together with all its contents bought for the marriage of Lord Jersey in 1771—which was due to be opened to the public this summer, will not now be opened. This is a public property bought for the public, to be shown to the public. It will not now be open because of this foolish cut. It means that Londoners, visitors from outside London, and foreign visitors cannot go to the superb grounds of Osterley Park and also see the house itself, as they were intended to do this summer.

The Victoria and Albert Museum have managed better with their cut, because when a cut of 17 in their staff was imposed they withdrew a number of wardens and custodians at Ham House and took them to the museum in South Kensington so that they could keep all the rooms and galleries open there. This means that now only conducted parties can go to Ham House. If one goes by oneself and one does not wait until the correct hour for a conducted party, one cannot see the house.

Again, at the Victoria and Albert Museum the wardens have become rather thin on the ground. They are stretched very far indeed, beyond what is reasonable for safe custody of the exhibits there. Only recently the Duke of Wellington's celebrated dagger was stolen. I do not think that it would have been stolen if there had been an adequate staff there.

Now I turn to the Wallace Collection. This had already suffered a cut of two earlier on. It has now had a further two removed from the staff by this arbitrary cyclostyled letter from the Treasury. Four of the rooms have to be closed and opened on alternate days. Two of those rooms contain the famous collection of armour, one of the principal parts of the whole Wallace Collection. Today the Wallace Collection have seven less on their effective staff than they had in 1939. In 1939 there were 64 on the staff, seven of whom were cleaners and floor-polishers, whose work is now being done by outside contractors. Today they are allowed only 50, so they have been actually cut down by seven from the pre-war effective strength; and 57 is the minimum which the trustees responsible think they must have to carry out their functions and responsibilities. Without that number they do not think they can protect and exhibit the collection adequately.

The staff are in a dilemma and have asked the Treasury for helpful suggestions. That is completely useless under the present administration. The only way they can think of making economies by cutting the staff is to dispense with a man who takes in the umbrellas and walking-sticks. But all galleries and museums have to take away umbrellas and walking-sticks to prevent damage being done to the exhibits by inflamed colonels who may not like the type of art displayed.

The Tate Gallery is perhaps one of the worst examples of all under the present régime. According to the Financial Secretary there has been a cut of 2½ men on the staff. I am not quite clear whether the half is the bottom half or the upper half. But according to the Tate Gallery the cut is 3½, because they were one below normal establishment on 1st October, 1951, when the Financial Secretary's axe fell and cut this unfortunate man in half.

This means that the exhibition of English water colour paintings from the 17th Century onwards has had to be closed entirely because it cannot be properly supervised. This collection is unique in the world. It is the only collection of English water colours since the 17th Century which has been always open and accessible to the public. With it were some modern foreign water colour paintings, deliberately juxtaposed for comparative purposes, and also some oil paintings. Now this exhibition has gone altogether. Yet water colour is one of the fields of painting in which the English are supposed to excel. The public will not be able to see these paintings any more.

Actually there are fewer wardens and attendants at the Tate Gallery now than there were before the war. There were then 41 and today there are only 38. One explanation is that four men who normally would have been wardens and attendants have had to be assigned whole time to unpacking, assembling and repacking all the special exhibitions which are held at the gallery. Since the war a feature of our cultural life, no doubt completely unknown to the present Government, has been the four or five special exhibitions held every year at the Tate Gallery. They all require great care and attention in unpacking, assembling and hanging. The works of Cezanne, Rouault—of whom no doubt the Financial Secretary has never heard—Henry Moore, Van Gogh, and the famous Austrian Exhibition have been among them, and today the 20th Century Masterpieces Exhibition opens.

It is rather interesting to know that in connection with this last exhibition the Arts Council, who have brought the exhibition over from Paris, said to the Tate Gallery, "Since we do not think you have enough wardens and attendants to safeguard an exhibition adequately in your premises any more, we have had to employ four additional wardens not on the staff of the Tate Gallery, because we do not think you can properly supervise this exhibition, which is very valuable, without additional help from outside." This is the state to which the Government have reduced the celebrated Tate Gallery.

What has happened in the Tate Gallery shows the enormous rise in popularity of museums and galleries since before the war. The annual attendance for all of them have roughly doubled. For the last week in May and the first week in June, 1939, the attendance at the Tate Gallery was 10,455. In exactly the same two weeks in 1950 the attendance was 22,662, which shows that not less staff but more are required. Yet despite all the things which I have explained, the Financial Secretary says that it is the inefficiency of the authorities of the Tate Gallery which has compelled them to close down the water-colour exhibition.

The other day the Financial Secretary said that at one or two of the galleries no restrictions have been imposed. He carefully selected the galleries where only one or two of the staff have been dismissed and, incidentally, where there have been no great acquisitions since the war or additional responsibilities placed upon the authorities. They are the Imperial War Museum, the National Gallery and the London Museum. The size of exhibitions and the general conditions are entirely different at different galleries. One cannot quote one museum and say that although the staff there has been cut by two, they have not closed any galleries, and that therefore the Tate Gallery should not have closed the water-colour exhibition. Conditions are entirely different at different galleries.

Our complaint is summed up in an admirable leading article in "The Times" today, which is heartily condemnatory of the action of the Government in these matters. It states: Any attempt to treat them"— that is, museums and galleries— with the same kind of rule-of-thumb financial restriction as might be applied, say, to some Ministry of mushroom growth could do utterly irreparable damage merely to make some quite inconsiderable saving. That is exactly what has been done by this stupid and unthinking action. This is an example in microcosm of the actions of the Government in the larger field of our affairs. It is characterised by folly, ignorance, and irresponsibility. To apply the cut in the first place without consultation with the authorities of the museums was folly. To apply it without understanding the implications or having the vaguest notion of the nature of the inside of a museum was ignorance. To blame the consequence of that action on civil servants and the distinguished directors and keepers of those museums and art galleries is irresponsibility. These persons, who are highly distinguished and eminent in their own field, and who have spent a lifetime in the public service, have been gratuitously insulted at the end of it by the Financial Secretary, who tells them that they do not know how to do their job. I think they deserve an apology.

The Treasury have made no helpful suggestions in this matter whatever. There was one ludicrous proposal by the Financial Secretary, who said, "Oh, well, why do not they take the exhibits from one room which has been closed and put them in another?" He really ought to go and visit a museum one day and just see why they do not wheel a Saxon burial ship in and out of the Egyptian Room at the British Museum every morning. There are reasons for this. There are reasons of space and of staff which has already been cut. Also it is not very desirable to keep wheeling things like burial ships up and down the corridors of the British Museum.

These cuts have already affected scholarship. They have affected scholarship at the Public Record Office by preventing the indexing of all these documents from being continued. They have curbed scholarship at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where the highly specialised technical staff who ought to he engaged full-time on research are now doing supervisory duties in the galleries and they have done the same at the other museums. The public are severely affected in many instances by being kept away from these things which are our heritage.

The country is affected not only by the fact that its own citizens are prevented from seeing these objects, but we are also losing foreign currency by the obvious diminution of attraction which this country will have for foreign visitors when they learn that the museum which they wished to go to see on a particular day may or may not be open, or half of it may be open and they do not know which half, or they may see only a part of the collection which they have come to see and they cannot spare any more time to see the other part.

The whole of this action has taken place because the Government—in fact, the Ministers responsible at the Treasury—decided that, in order to redeem one of their election pledges, they must try to save some Government expenditure. They could not find any waste in the museums and galleries; they never consulted them to find out if there was any. So they issued this arbitrary cut, which varied from museum to art gallery, without any relation to the conditions in each of these museums and art galleries, and they ordered them to cut down by 1st June of this year.

It is only blind stupidity and pride which is preventing the Government from admitting their mistake today and withdrawing these restrictions which are saving only £30,000 a year. I am certain that if there were a free vote on this matter, the Government would be defeated by an overwhelming majority.

3.53 p.m.

Mr. Christopher Hollis (Devizes)

I had hardly expected to be called quite so early in this debate, since my contribution was intended to be a matter of some detailed questions rather than the general survey which might have been expected from an hon. Member speaking first from these benches.

I am glad the Opposition have taken the opportunity to raise this important subject this afternoon, and I am glad that we are having the opportunity to ventilate our views upon it. Naturally enough, I cannot associate myself with every one of the epithets or general animadversions that have just fallen from the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), but I am anxious that we shall debate this subject not in order that either one party or the other should obtain any party advantage, but in order that we may find a solution to the problem, a problem which concerns me very much.

I entirely agree with those—I think the Financial Secretary is certainly among them—who think that it is very deplorable that this present situation has arisen. I do not think I need elaborate that point, about which I am sure there is no dispute. Of course, we can all pile up extremely cogent and important reasons why it is a very sad and disastrous state of affairs that these facilities have been restricted, and I do not need to labour the point. The great danger is that this matter should be argued out upon two parallel lines which will never meet and which will, therefore, never bring us to a solution. On the one hand, while dissenting from the epithets and general animadversions of the hon. Member for Aston, I would associate myself with his constructive and cogent argument.

It is very sad that these restrictions have been imposed, and he is right—I do not think the Financial Secretary would deny it—in saying that this problem cannot be solved merely by a mathematical computation of the number of employees in the museums and art galleries. We all well understand that, compared with the figure in 1939, the museums have taken on all sorts of new obligations and, therefore, we cannot deduce the fact that there is no justification for this closure by simply taking the number of employees. I do not imagine that my hon. Friend ever intended that we should do that.

Nevertheless, it is a pertinent fact that we should understand, first, that there are more employees in these museums than there were in 1939, and secondly, that it is by no means all of the museums which have found it necessary to close down on certain days or to close certain departments in order to meet this problem. As the hon. Member admitted, the National Gallery, the London Museum and the Imperial War Museum have been able to take their cuts without closing down. It is not accurate to say of the Imperial War Museum at least, that it has taken on no new commitments since the war, because it has had an addition of some 1,600 square feet of gallery space to look after.

However, what we want to know is how to get a solution. On the one hand, there is the argument of the hon. Member for Aston, and on the other hand there is the Government's argument, the strength of which nobody can deny, which is this: unfortunately, like it or not, there is today a financial crisis, and Government economies have to be carried through. It is easy in this respect and in a thousand other respects to argue that such and such an activity is desirable and, therefore, it is a Philistine thing to economise on it, but we are in a position where we cannot get away with these generalised sort of arguments.

We have these two sets of cases, both of which in themselves are valid. It is desirable, if we can find a way of doing it, to keep the museums open and, on the other hand, these are times when the Government simply cannot afford to be indifferent to economies. Of course, it can be said that £32,000 is the sole extent of these economies, and that is a small economy, but all economies are small if we break them down into small enough figures.

Let us see what is the practical hope of a solution. With that in mind, I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary two questions and to get very clear the answers to them both. First, I am far from certain what is exactly the legal right of the museums to close down in these circumstances. After all, whether they are receiving more public money or less public money, they are receiving public money, and they are doing so on certain conditions, one of which is that of making themselves available to the public. What has happened, I understand, is that the Government have told them that they must have these cuts in their personnel and it has been left entirely to them to decide in what way they shall perform or shall not perform their functions when these cuts have been imposed upon them. I am very far from clear whether the Government have the legal right to divest themselves of their responsibility to that extent, or whether the museums have the legal right to close in the way they have done, without consultation.

When my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Lieut.-Colonel Hyde) raised this matter the other day, he made an extremely important and practical suggestion which I had hoped might lead to a way out of our difficulty. We are all agreed that, on the one hand, it is a terrible thing that these museums should be closed, and, on the other hand, there is a financial crisis. It is perfectly true that the Government have chosen to demand a reduction of staff; but this is not like a war-time crisis, where the essential saving required is that of manpower.

What is required here is not a saving of staff for itself but a saving of public expenditure. Therefore, it would seem worth while to explore, in greater detail than has been done up till now, the question whether the museums could not keep larger staffs and at the same time save Government expenditure by being allowed to charge fees, in the way that the galleries on the Continent, such as the Louvre, are permitted to do. The Louvre charges fees. The Zoo charges fees. If it is good enough for the Louvre and good enough for the Zoo, why is it not good enough for the National Gallery?

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

Has the hon. Member considered the figures which have already been given, namely, that some 22,000 people per month are going to the Tate Gallery, and that the reduction is a question of 2½ per cent. of the personel? This would work out at not even 1d. par attendance.

Mr. Hollis

Is the hon. Member on my side or against me?

Dr. Stross

I am asking whether he has considered how small the charge per person would be in order to get the global sum required?

Mr. Hollis

The smaller the charge, the stronger the argument. The hon. Member, I am delighted to find, is on my side. My hon. Friend raised that point and the Financial Secretary replied to it in the debate on 25th June. He said that there were legal difficulties and, on the question of imposing charges, he added: Whether that is desirable or not, it would involve legislation in the case of some of the major institutions, notably the British Museum. But this is a matter which would be open to certain objections. It would be wrong to seek to apportion staff cuts among museums on the basis that some could make charges and some could not."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1952; Vol. 502, c. 2411.] I should like to make two points on that. First, if it be true that it is possible to make charges in some museums but not in others, I do not think that is a very good reason for not making charges where we can. We might as well save money where we can, even if it could not be done everywhere. Secondly, if legislation were required, I do not think that it would be very difficult or that it would meet with opposition, even in such times as these.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)


Mr. Hollis

The right hon. Gentleman would oppose it, would he?

Mr. Ede

I should be one, and there would be a large number of others who would, and they would not all be on one side of the House.

Mr. Hollis

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's opinion it is still more important that the Financial Secretary should tell us, in a great deal more detail than we have had, in respect of which museums legislation would be required and where it would not, because the most important of all these closures is the closure of the Public Record Office. If one looks up the Public Record Act, which was passed in the second year of the Reign of Queen Victoria, one finds, in Section 9, that the Public Record Office is set up …for the Admission of such Persons as ought to be admitted to the Use of the Records, Calendars, Catalogues, and Indexes in his Custody, and to suspend, alter, or rescind such Rules, or any of them, and to fix the Amount of Fees (if any) which he shall think proper to be paid for the Use thereof…and from Time to Time to vary the same as he shall think fit. So, as far as the Public Record Office is concerned—and that is really the most important establishment affected—it seems quite certain that there is no legal objection to the charging of what the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) said would be only an extremely small fee.

Therefore, when my hon. Friend replies, I think that he should tell the Committee, in a great deal more detail than we have had at present, first, what is the legal position as to those places which can charge fees without legislation and those which cannot. Secondly, I ask him to consult with his friends in the Government and to think very carefully whether it is not possible to bridge this " unbridgeable gulf " by making the money available through these small charges, until such time as the Government are in a position to increase the amount once more.

4.6 p.m.

Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)

I think that all Members of the Committee should be grateful to the Opposition for having called attention to this matter and for the admirable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) in fact, he gave details in such a way that it is unnecessary for us to repeat some of them. I must confess, however, that I think it is the duty of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on all sides of the Committee, when a matter of this kind is being discussed, to try to make some headway against the pressure which is being brought to bear upon various Departments by the Treasury without any regard for any principle of priority.

It may be that we have to make economies in this or that direction, but the trouble is—as I have said on a number of occasions—that in the heirarchy of the Government machine the Treasury is now practically supreme. That may suit some people, but it has a most appalling consequence on public administration when the Treasury write off a number of figures from a balance sheet without any appraisement of the qualitative results of what they have done.

That is why I think hon. Members must support the protest which is being made, if only to get some kind of sense of proportion into the Treasury. I have suffered from it, and I dare say that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Government Front Bench at the present time will be extremely grateful for a little pressure from the House to resist the importunities of people in the Treasury who are addicts to arithmetic and who, quite frequently, have no regard for the public consequences of what they do.

The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) put his finger on an important point. Who is going to protect the public in this matter? The Treasury want money, or they want to reduce expenditure. They want to cut down the number on the public staffs, so they say, "Less money here." Then the issue is passed to the custodians of the museums and galleries, who have another vested interest and who say, "We will stop the public coming in." Who is to protect the public between these two bodies? If every time the Treasury come along and ask for money the only way in which they can provide more economical services is by shutting out the public, it is obvious that before very long there will be no protection for the public. I should have thought that puri passu with the demand for a reduction of the staffs there should have been an investigation into the administration of museums and galleries. I believe they would come out on top against the Treasury.

If we are going to demand a reduction in expenditure, it ought not to be done by reducing services to the public without first finding out whether it would be possible to give the same services with a smaller expenditure. Mat is one count that we ought to make against the frivolous behaviour of the Treasury. They have merely passed the responsibility on to another body of persons, who then reduce facilities to the public. I think that this is extremely unwise.

I very often take half an hour or an hour off to go round the art galleries. I was at the Wallace Collection the other day, and on one occasion at the Victoria and Albert Museum—where in the basement there is a very fine exhibition of mediaeval furniture—I saw a youngster of 10 or 11 years of age about to scratch a piece of Spanish mahogany. There was no attendant there at all. That is not good enough. It is quite wrong that we should have these priceless exhibits, either given to us or bought by the nation, and should then be so improvident as not to provide sufficient warders or attendants to see that they are properly preserved.

I should have thought that one thing that ought to have given everybody a sense of pride in the generation now growing up in Great Britain was to see the enormous queues waiting to go and see the French Exhibition. Very many of the people are of the ages from 17 to 21 and 22. Nothing has ever been seen like it in Great Britain before.

An enormous amount of interest is now being taken in art products of all kinds, and as the figures which my hon. Friend has given reveal, this is an education of an enormously important character. No one can judge in terms of finance the awakening of the imagination in a youngster that might result from one afternoon in the National Art Gallery or similar places; and from that awakening, all kinds of beneficial consequences flow.

That is why it seems to me a particularly mean thing that hon. Members should suggest that there should be a charge. Quite obviously, it would he quite impossible for these youngsters to go along if every time they went they had to pay a charge. Everybody knows that there is nothing more tiring than walking around a gallery. I do not know how long some hon. Members can stand it, but half an hour is sufficient for me. It is extremely exhausting having to re-act to what one sees apart from the physical exertion of walking around, which is not much. Therefore, one has to make many visits in order to be able to get the proper advantage from the gallery.

It is no use, if a youngster is charged, expecting him or her to get the utmost benefit by staying as long as possible in the gallery, because after half an hour he gets no more from the gallery. What we want to do, therefore, is to encourage the greatest possible number of visits. If a charge is to be made every time—and, of course, the youngsters cannot do it—then what we have got are idle treasures.

There is nothing more senseless than to pile up the treasures of civilisation in such a way and to keep them in such a way that they cannot be seen. That is the worst kind of vandalism—it is almost as bad as destroying them. If they cannot be seen, they are dead as far as the public are concerned. Therefore, I hope that the suggestion of the charge will not be taken up.

There is another angle. It has seemed to me to be a quaint thing that we should have from Lord Jersey an act of benevolence and to know what has happened since. He gave Osterley Park to the National Trust—I think some of the contents were bought. When he had it in his possession, it was possible to see it now and again—I saw it myself on two occasions—but now that he has handed it over to the nation no one can see it. That is a curious situation that we have got into.

If any person who has treasures endowed to him by his rich forefathers, or happens to have treasures in his possession by any other means, thinks about giving them to the State, he ought first of all to have a contract that if he does give them to the State they should be at least as much seen as when he had them. It really is an extraordinary state to which we have brought ourselves.

There is a further angle in the matter of priorities. I can tell hon. Members on the other side how to save this money immediately and to add to the efficiency of Government. I believe that immediately after Lord Cherwell was appointed to some very ambiguous duty—no one has defined it; probably it is quite mischievous—we had a Supplementary Estimate—I am speaking from memory—for his staff of £30,000, which is almost the exact figure in question. There we are—sack Lord Cherwell, and let the kiddies see the pictures.

I am not saying that we could not carry it further than that. A great advantage would be to sack Lord Woolton as well, and still more money would be saved. Nobody will suggest for a moment that in the order of public priorities it is more important to have Lord Cherwell than that people should see a Renoir. I suggest seriously to the Government that this is not how the nation likes to have its affairs treated. The Government get no credit whatever out of this on any side of the House, and they are certainly getting no credit outside.

Furthermore, my hon. Friend the Member for Aston quite properly pointed out that these pictures, looking at the matter not from a purely aesthetic but from a purely commercial point of view, are a very great asset to us. It is not only children coming from the provinces to London who will see these pictures, but people come from all over the world to see them. If one is in a foreign city there is no more tedious task than trying to find out when a museum is open and when it is closed, what part of it is open and what part is closed. It is astonishing how many art treasures in London are never seen even by Londoners because the City is so huge and there is always the difficulty of finding out about things. But if anyone who speaks in a foreign tongue has to find out those things—all these little obstacles piled up in the way make it much harder to get access to these treasures.

The other day, just after the announcement was made that these economies were to be effected, I was going round the Tate Gallery and I met a very distinguished American collector. I felt a sense of shame that we had to admit that some parts of the Tate Gallery had to be closed because the financial astringency in Great Britain was so serious that we had to shut out our own people from our own glories. That is too shabby and too silly, and I believe that the Government would give rise to universal approval if the Financial Secretary would get up and say that they were going to withdraw this silly piece of economy.

4.18 p.m.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

All the best speeches this afternoon will be made, of course, in defence of the proposal that we should—

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

On a point of order. Is it not right, Sir Charles, that there should be a Scottish Minister here, because three Scottish art galleries are affected? There are Scottish Members present, but no Scottish Minister.

The Chairman

That is not a point of order.

Sir W. Darling

I shall manage to make my observations without the assistance of hon. or right hon. Members. The support that I am offering to the Government is not support that demands the presence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

I was remarking that the best speeches will be made in support of the proposal for continuing the extended free opening of museums and public galleries. The debate today is particularly interesting. I have always had the greatest curiosity about the way in which the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) spends his leisure. We now know that he has been in the Victoria and Albert Museum protecting a piece of mahogany from being scratched by a small boy—a very interesting piece of public service which I am sure his many admirers, including myself, will treasure. We have had also the picture of the right hon. Gentleman ruminating in the Tate Gallery, discussing the unhappy affairs of the British people with distinguished American friends. That is a pretty picture, but it is peculiar, in my judgment, to the right hon. Gentleman.

There are not tens of thousands of persons—the figures bear out what I am saying—who use these galleries. I suggest that the way to approach this matter is to consider to what extent a country in a bankrupt condition can afford an elaborate system of picture galleries and museums free to the people all the time. That really is the question which we have to answer.

I know that this is not a popular speech. I could touch the heights of eloquence in praise of the necessities of culture—perhaps, not the heights that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale touches or the heights that the hon. Member the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) reaches, but still I could touch the heights of eloquence. However, what I want to say is that this is indeed a bankrupt country, and that it is that fact which outshines and outstares these other considerations.

I have been connected with many businesses, some of which went bankrupt. Very popular was the member of the board of a company going bankrupt who said, "Let us take a liberal view of this. Surely we need not cut down on all these things. Surely it is not necessary to be as cheeseparing as all this." That was a very popular thing to say when economy was necessary. It was always the directors who spoke like that who brought the business to the verge of bankruptcy.

It was left to one curmudgeon—the miserable fellow—to take a view of the business as a whole and to put before the board the business as a whole, so that the employees' salaries and wages could continue to be paid and the company could continue to act. It was up to one of those fellows to say, "It is all very well to talk about the canteen and the holiday fund and the benevolent fund and all those other things which are very proper and necessary in their place and serve a good purpose at certain times, but this business is on the rocks, and unless we deal with our difficulties and make economies in these things, which are, after all, excrescences and luxuries, the business will be entirely destroyed."

The one who said that was never very popular. He was the one who had to make the unpopular speech. However, it always happened that it was the one who said the unpopular things, and those others who shared his view, who brought the business back to prosperity again, so that the luxuries could be enjoyed again, so that the workpeople were fully employed and got their wages, and a dividend was paid to the shareholders.

Mr. Dryden Brook (Halifax)

Will the hon. Gentleman carry his argument to the logical conclusion and advocate selling all these treasures in order to meet this state of bankruptcy?

Sir W. Darling

The hon. Gentleman asks me whether I will carry my argument to its logical conclusion, but I demur saying that that is the logical conclusion, as he suggests. What we are contemplating at this moment is the temporary closing, or temporary restriction on opening, of certain public galleries. That is what we are contemplating.

If it were necessary that we should sell national treasures in order to meet the mismanagement and misfortunes of our country, I should not be afraid to do that. Other countries have had to do so, and many individuals have had to do so. The hon. Gentleman asks me to face the possibility. I certainly face it, and that would be my answer if that course were necessary; but I do not think things are as bad as that, for there are many shifts, there are many other arrangements, we can make which will meet the circumstances.

First of all, I wonder whether in stringent times it is necessary for the galleries and museums to extend to the numbers they do. For instance, during the war, for six years the Edinburgh National Portrait Gallery, housing a very valuable collection which would have given every comfort to the right hon. Gentleman if he had visited that city, was closed. It was closed for the whole of the six years. And filled with what? Clerks engaged in work on identity cards for the people of Scotland. I asked a question or two on the subject. I gathered that it was more important than art—though art was very important even when the bombs were falling—for the Government to provide identity cards, and so that gallery was turned over to the business of identity cards, and instead of my being able to go to see the portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots, or the portraits of other benefactors of my country—

Mr. Bevan

Were the pictures in the gallery at the time?

Sir W. Darling

The greater proportion of the pictures were stored in the basement, although some were moved to the country for safety, but how that gives encouragement to the right hon. Gentleman and to other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite I do not know. The fact remains that during the war, when tens of thousands of men, notably from the United States, but also from elsewhere, came to the City of Edinburgh and would have liked to visit the gallery to see the representations of the greatness of our past they were denied that opportunity by the Government of the day and their successors in order that the gallery might house identity cards.

So it has been shown that dire necessity —the dire necessity of war—does make it necessary to close picture galleries and museums, and economic circumstances can also make dire necessity. So in the dire necessity of war, the Edinburgh Gallery was closed, and I have no doubt that the British Museum was closed or partly closed also. Do not let us say, therefore, that it is absolutely necessary at all times to have museums and galleries open whatever it costs. Do not let us address ourselves to that argument. It may be that in our dire economic circumstances we are spending too much on them. It is surely quite illogical to argue that they are absolutely necessary in all circumstances.

What the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale has said is something which he has said before, and something which, I think, is essentially evil and wrong. He has got to have a whipping boy for what he thinks are wrong things, quite apart from any proper criticism which might be made on the Government; and he has chosen the Treasury. It is not my business to defend the Treasury. I have never been a Minister, and I know little of the management of the affairs of the country; but surely the Treasury is 'In important Government Department, and it is upon the Treasury that not only the right hon. Gentleman but others than the right hon. Gentleman seek to cast the odium of whatever it is they dislike.

Surely it is the function of the Treasury to have the conduct of our financial affairs and to conduct them in the most economic and prudent fashion possible, and although, of course, it makes mistakes, it should not be blamed or made into a whipping boy, as the right hon. Gentleman seeks to make it—and has so sought on more than one occasion—for decisions which it is compelled to take in the national interest. I am bound to say this in defence of the Treasury.

Of course, as my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) has said, there may be perfectly legitimate criticism of how the Treasury is carrying out its duty, but that it has a public duty to perform is no ground on which to criticise it. It may have been that the matter was rather rushed—that the Treasury was told, "We are losing £5,000 here. We are not going to lose more than £5,000. See to that at once. Put up a scheme to carry out that decision." That may have been a decision of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Do not let us make a mountain out of a molehill, as they do who make speeches about tens of thousands of people being denied opportunity for culture, which, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale says, exhausts one in less than an hour. Are we really to make speeches about these people being denied the somewhat boring experience which he himself admits is in that category? He really must look at the whole of the national picture, and it is absurd to select this narrow point as a basis and opportunity for attack upon a comprehensive programme.

Mr. Wyatt

Does the hon. Gentleman think it not at all important that 500,000 people a year go to the Tate Gallery?

Sir W. Darling

I should not say that was not important, but obviously many people who go there are prepared to go there only because they can go for nothing. If there are 500,000 people going each year, that is satisfactory evidence to me of demand for and interest in this opportunity, and if interest is as vivid as that—and I am delighted to learn that it is as vivid as that—then at least 10 per cent. of the 500,000 would pay for the pleasure and would not find it too much to be asked to pay 6d. for it.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

May I ask the hon. Gentleman, who represents a division of the City of Edinburgh, whether he is aware that during the national Festival, in the National Gallery of Edinburgh six people were sacked? Does he think that a good thing for the City of Edinburgh?

Sir W. Darling

Let me deal with the rather larger problem. I am dealing with a point raised by the hon. Member for Aston—that there are 500,000 people who go every year to the Tate Gallery. I accept his figure, and I am delighted to learn that there is that degree of interest in a centre of high culture. Would it be unreasonable to suggest that 10 per cent. should pay 6d. for admission? There are turnstiles there, if I remember aright. There is also, I believe, obtainable there a rather inexpensive and crowded luncheon, and I wonder whether there are not many who go for the luncheon. Would not the hon. Gentleman consider raising the price of the luncheon to offset some of the expenses?

Mr. Wyatt

May I ask what on earth the hon. Member means by 10 per cent.? Is it to be a means test or one in 10 who arrive at the gallery?

Sir W. Darling

The hon. Member asks what I mean by 10 per cent. of 500,000. I had not thought to put it so simply. If 500,000 go to a particular entertainment, I suggest that there is a large demand for this form of culture and it would not be out of place to say that on certain days those who wanted to go should pay for the honour of being alone on such days when Cabinet Ministers want to solace their souls. Would it be unreasonable to charge 6d. on Mondays and Thursdays, double on Sundays, and have admission free on the other days? That would give people an opportunity of knowing on which days they would have to pay.

In answer to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), I do not see that there should necessarily be a reduction in the staff of the art gallery to which he referred. There are many people in Edinburgh who would be willing to go as honorary guides, as they now act as honorary guides to the City of Edinburgh. That may be a practice which would not be welcomed by him or by a trade union, but it could be done and a great number of people would be willing to do it.

Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

The hon. Member seems to overlook the fact that voluntary cleaners and doorkeepers are required. Would any of his friends volunteer for that?

Sir W. Darling

The hon. and gallant Member suggests that I am appealing for voluntary doorkeepers and cleaners—

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

That is what it boils down to.

Sir W. Darling

The hon. and gallant Member said, "That is what it boils down to," a rather laundry term to use. I see nothing dishonourable in cleaning a public building or in doing any of the so-called menial tasks. It is hon. Members opposite who try to distinguish between one class of worker and another. If it is menial to do that, it is menial to be a Member of Parliament.

In supporting my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes, I say that there are a number of approaches to this question. One is charges for admission; and the second is consideration by those employed of a possible reduction of or variation in their wages. That is not beyond consideration. There is. thirdly —if it is desirable to maintain these places open every day including Sunday —supplementation of the permanent staff by voluntary labour of every description.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

The hon. Member is treasurer of the Scottish Conservative Association. Is he in favour of the Scottish Conservative Association voluntarily cleaning their own offices?

Sir W. Darling

The hon. Member brings such a delightfully various intelligence to bear that he is always entertaining and irrelevant. I am not secretary of the Scottish Conservative Association, nor treasurer.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

The hon. Member is something.

Sir W. Darling

It is quite true, as the hon. Member says, that I am something and I will bear that statement out very determinedly. I wish I could respond and say that the hon. Member is something in this matter, but he is nothing. The point he raises is without significance and I have nothing to say by way of complimentary observation.

This is an unpopular, distasteful, repugnant and offensive kind of speech which I have endeavoured to make, but I am profoundly moved by the fact that the opportunity will not be resisted by hon. Members opposite—and on this side of the Committee—to make speeches about culture, meanness, curmudgeons and cheeseparing. There will be an attack delivered by extravagant and profligate men and women against those who seek to be honest and to balance their budget. I am not to be shamed by such speeches, but I support my hon. Friend and I hope that the Treasury will practise economies not only in this field but wherever they can.

4.35 p.m.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

I have always listened with great attention and interest to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling), but never with such astonishment as today. I think it would be offering no secret if I told the Committee that in my view he did not believe a single word of what he said. Indeed, as he was speaking I could see a large beard beginning to grow from his chin on the analogy that in Rome all highly fed lawyers were paid according to the amount of saliva dribbling down their beards. This was because every time they said something they did not believe they spat a little down their beards as an invocation to the goddess of lies. The hon. Member seemed to be dribbling down to the very floor and when we meet in the corridor I know that he will agree.

May I refer to an interjection I made during the speech of the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis)? If I gave the impression that I agreed with the system of charges I should like to assure the hon. Member that I do not. If, however, charges were ever imposed by anyone and we could not resist them, I think he will agree that we should not, for obvious reasons, impose them on young people or students. Indeed, it would be difficult to impose a charge of any type to cover £30,000 a year for it would mean something less than 1d. per person to cover the problem we are now discussing.

Mr. Hollis

I agree very much with the hon. Member. We could have certain free days and charges on Mondays and Thursdays and there could be student tickets. I would not object to that; I would agree with the hon. Member.

Dr. Stross

In reference to the £30,000, one has to bear in mind other costs. For example, some time ago it was mentioned that we had to find three or four times as much to train one fighter pilot than this total cost of £30,000. I am not being contentious in giving these figures. The cost of one tank is probably more than £30,000. I will not say anything more about Lord Cherwell, but that payment is for something we do not quite understand.

I want to put the matter to the Financial Secretary in this way. He will agree that when the problem has been raised, and objections have been made to portions of national institutions being closed—the worth and value of which he would be the last to deny—he has said, "We are not responsible for closing any portion. We leave that as an administrative matter for the authorities in charge of the museum and art galleries. We merely ask them for some economy as part of the overall economy we want from all Departments." I think that is a fair way of putting what the hon. Gentleman said.

If that be the case, I want him to realise what the appropriate authorities are faced with. They argue like this, "In the first place we are charged with the treasures of this country and must be responsible to see that those treasures are well guarded and well preserved." Obviously, the Committee would agree that there should never be any interference or that there should be economy in that regard. Economy must not include the fabric of the treasures themselves. Secondly, looking at the future, the authorities say that it would be extremely wrong if they interfered with the scholarship and training of their technicians and curators.

If we did, then it is the future we imperil. Curatorship in this country is not at the highest possible level because we have not valued our treasures sufficiently well. Indeed, in the provinces, there is a very sad lack of standards in curatorship, and there is much we can say in criticism of it. It is only our great national institutions that give us the feeding ground for the people who will guard, protect and exhibit these treasures all over the country. I would also include one or two private organisations such as the Cortauld Institute, of which I cannot speak too highly, for the work which they have done and which has benefited the nation.

If everyone agrees that there can be no economies in these two fields—neither in the essential scholarship associated with the museums and art galleries at this level nor in the fabric of our art treasures themselves—what can the museum authorities do but what they have done? They are asked to economise, and they have had to keep the public out from parts of their buildings or close one particular part, such as the Public Record Office Museum, because they have no other way of economising without doing essential damage to the objects themselves through neglect, or imperilling the future through debasement and disregard of scholarship and technical training.

Therefore, no one can blame the authorities themselves. That being the case, the Financial Secretary, who is always thoroughly fair when an argument is put to him, will agree that he and the Government must take the responsibility to themselves and admit it is repugnant and objectionable, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South has just indicated. He slightly inverted the emphasis, and by telling us how repugnant it was to him to make the speech he did he was in reality saying to the Financial Secretary how he disliked what was happening.

If that is so, are we not now faced with a situation in which, as a result of this action, involving a small sum of money, £30,000 a year, our young people are being deprived—and that is a grievous thing in these days when we are faced with stringency and hardship—of this type of education and consolation? It is the cheapest in the world and perhaps the most dearly treasured. In addition, as the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) pointed out, we are running the risk of losing prestige with our neighbours abroad. I have always felt—as no doubt have other hon. Members—that we have been a little discourteous to other nations in that we do not lend our treasures to them when they have great exhibitions, but we accept theirs when we have exhibitions here, and if, to this discourtesy to the foreigner, we add churlish treatment of our own people by denying access to our own treasures, it is time we took stock and thought again.

There is a simple way out. It is for the Government to say, "We did not realise when we imposed a cut that it could only be safely made in this particular way." It is no loss of face to any Government to admit having made a mistake on a point of detail such as this, which lands us all in difficulty and deprives the nation of the right to inspect its own treasures, its own heritage. I think the Government should reverse its decision.

For a long time we have been looking at something on the Order Paper described as the British Museum Bill. It is a very insufficient, curtailed, tiny document. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am very glad to have the support of some hon. Members opposite, and we shall no doubt join together to try to improve the Bill. There are some of us who remember, either through having been in the House or having read about it since, that in 1931 there was a much better Bill brought before the House called the British Museum and National Galleries Loans Bill. I must not, however, go too wide of that subject, because I could speak at some length on the desirability of a Bill of that kind being brought in.

I will leave that point and appeal to the Financial Secretary to realise that all of us on these benches, and hon. Members in all parts of the Committee, look upon themselves as being the true and real trustees of these treasures. Although we do not want this to be a quarrel of the House of Commons v. the Treasury, we feel that if the whole Committee is aligned against the Treasury, and the Financial Secretary should say, when he replies, "We will look at this matter again very carefully," no shame is involved if he admits that the Government did not realise the consequences of this economy.

We are all conscious of the fact that some people are so fortunate in their private lives that they have costly and beautiful treasures inside their own homes; but even they would be the first to admit that they need the inspiration of the great national collections which we possess to enable them to understand fully what our national treasures are really like and how widely they run. But the mass of our people have very little inside their personal homes, and there is not much in the factories at which they can look which is of aesthetic value. These treasures belong to us all, so it is all the more important that they should have an opportunity of seeing them.

If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been present I would have said to him that his constituents live in a division which is much more beautiful than mine. They have a right to thank God for the beauties they see in the woods and streams near where they live. My constituents have to thank God for the use and presence of their eyelids rather than their eyes in order to shut out some of the ugliness in which they live and work.

Surely we have a right to put forward special pleading on behalf of our people when we say that there should be no bar between themselves and these treasures. Lastly, let us remember that part of our education must be here in the West to appreciate, first, the roots from which our civilisation springs, and, secondly, to learn something of its full flowering in the arts generally. This miserable £30,000 strikes both at the root and at the bloom and, therefore, we are asking for a reversal of this decision, knowing that we have every right to do so. If we fail in our appeal today we can only console ourselves by declaring that there can be only one Government —the Government that imposes this— that will be responsible. No other succeeding Government would ever sustain or retain these economies.

4.48 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Hyde (Belfast, North)

It was less than three weeks ago that I raised this subject on the Adjournment, and today it is very gratifying that the Opposition should have thought it of such importance that they have devoted half a Supply Day to its further discussion—discussion which must be more fruitful and range over a wider field than is possible in the narrow confines of an Adjournment debate.

We have heard some very interesting and useful speeches this afternoon. The hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), who opened the debate, was much more restrained than when he spoke on the Adjournment Motion, and he paid me the compliment, although he did not express it, of enumerating some of the museums which had suffered through closing or partial closing and which I mentioned on the previous occasion. We also had an interesting speech from the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). He paid what, I think, was a very remarkable tribute to private enterprise, because he said that when Osterley Park had been in the ownership of Lord Jersey it was easy to get into to see it, and now that it had become a nationalised institution no one could go there. We are very grateful to him for having made that point so very clearly.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman recollect that he had to restrain private enterprise from scratching the mahogany?

Lieut.-Colonel Hyde

That is not private enterprise; it is public mischief. I had occasion in a Question recently to call attention to that sort of thing in connection with the walls of Westminster Hall.

I wish again to revert to the suggestion which I made during the Adjournment debate, upon which my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) has enlarged this afternoon, and that is making good the cuts—we appreciate and accept the necessity for them—by introducing a charge where that may be possible and there is no legal objection.

The Public Record Office Museum is a great institution which, until the middle of May, had been open almost without a break since 1886. It has a tremendous range of historical treasures from the Domesday Book right down to, for example, the Treaty of 1839 guaranteeing the integrity of Belgium, the treaty which was described by the German Chancellor on the eve of the first World War as " a scrap of paper." Such documents as these are part of our national history and command tremendous interest, not only among young people and students, but throughout the civilised world where our institutions are respected and studied.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes said, the Public Record Office has power by statute to make charges. Charges are made for researches among the legal documents, and I wonder whether the Financial Secretary could take them into account when considering the cuts which have to be made there. There is no doubt that the closing of the Public Record Office Museum has been a tremendous disappointment to many visitors from the Commonwealth and the United States, and I hope that before the Coronation some means will be found of opening the room or rooms in which these treasures are housed. It should not entail a very great expenditure or much rearrangement of staff.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that when it was suggested that the Public Record Office Museum should be re-opened in Coronation year the Financial Secretary said that it was for the authorities of the Public Record Office to decide whether and when they could reopen the museum? The Financial Secretary placed the responsibility on the Public Record Office itself to decide if and when the museum shall reopen.

Lieut.-Colonel Hyde

Perhaps my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will feel able to consult the authorities with that end in view.

In the previous debate the Financial Secretary rejected the suggestion that the cuts necessarily involved a closure of gallery space. That raises the very important consideration of security. There might be very great risk if rooms which have now been closed were to be opened again. There have been more museum thefts since the end of the war than at any other time in our history. The hon. Member for Aston referred to the theft of the Duke of Wellington's sword from the Victoria and Albert Museum. There was also the theft from the National Maritime Museum of the even more valuable Nelson relics, none of which has been recovered.

I understand that as a result of these thefts Scotland Yard recently told the British Museum authorities that they must employ more warders at other institutions under their care, such as the Newspaper Repository at Colindale. It was therefore necessary for the museum's already depleted warder staff to be depleted still further so that that recent modern building could be adequately guarded.

The emphasis so far in this debate and in the previous debate has been on the non-industrial staff, which the Financial Secretary assured us on the first occasion was all that was affected. I am not satisfied that that is so. We ought to have some assurance that every effort is being made to prevent the cuts from affecting the technical and curatorial staff as well as the non-industrial staff.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) referred to the objects for which museums exist. He did not actually quote "The Times," but the first two objects which he set out are as stated in the very excellent leading article which appears in "The Times" today, to which reference has already been made. It may be that the hon. Member was the author of the leading article and perhaps desires to preserve his anonymity. The first point was that it is necessary to conserve our treasures.

Dr. Stross

For the sake of the record and so that no one's feelings shall be hurt, perhaps I might say that I deny having written that very excellent article, but the gist of it is in the knowledge of many of us who take an interest in these matters.

Lieut.-Colonel Hyde

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's assurance. I am glad that we think alike about the merits of the article.

The second point made by the article is that we should maintain and build up our staff of scholars. This staff, as well as the non-industrial staff, seems to be endangered by the cuts. That danger is reflected in the fact that some of the posts remain unfilled and that some technicians who are reaching retiring age have not trained successors to carry on their form of skilled work. Thus, there is a likelihood that specialised knowledge acquired over many years, often by long study and difficult processes, will be thrown away and that the efficiency of the institutions will be diminished.

To refer again to the British Museum, there is a danger that craftsmen will not be replaced. There are technicians engaged, for example, in the restoration of manuscripts, and this craft is in danger, if not of being lost, certainly of being run down. I understand that the expert on the mounting of Japanese prints, which is a very specialised and difficult operation, is shortly to retire and that there is no fully qualified successor to carry on his work. Again there are a number of Assistant Keeperships which are now vacant. They have not been advertised, and it seems to me that the museum authorities are purposely not filling those posts in order to try to effect savings—as they must—in conformity with what has been imposed upon them.

In the previous debate the Financial Secretary argued that the galleries as a whole are better now, in spite of the cuts, than they were in 1939. The figures he gave have already been quoted by the hon. Member for Aston. The Financial Secretary argued that they show no justification for the closing of any galleries at all. He also pointed out that there is something like 59 additional staff above what the museums had in 1939, and yet there is considerably far less space to maintain on account of war damage and other reasons.

Surely we cannot say that the number of staff which was sufficient in 1939 is sufficient now, and that the cuts now proposed are more than offset by the increases which have taken place during the last 12 years. Museums are not static institutions. Constant additions are being made to their collections and, in the case of the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, to their libraries. For instance, the recent discoveries at Sutton Hoo, about which I am not qualified to speak, had aroused immense archæological interest and resulted in the diversion of a considerable number of the academic staff from the British Museum. A museum or art gallery cannot be considered like any other Government Department. It is continually expanding and adding to its collections, and its advice is sought here and there on all kinds of matters of artistic and academic interests.

One final point about the technical side, which was raised by the hon. Member for Aston. I want to refer to the photographic work, which is a purely mechanical operation but is very important because of the demands which are made by foreign institutions for photo-stat or micro-film reproduction of documents. A few years ago I was in the library of Congress at Washington, and I was impressed by the photostat reproductions of documents in the Record Office and in the manuscript department of the British Museum which they had already acquired.

The authorities in the Congressional Library told me that they hoped in the course of the next few years to have photographed in England as many documents as they possibly could. That is an important point to consider, because it means dollars coming to this country. Institutions that are interested in reproducing documents in our galleries and museums here have got the funds to do it, but it is almost impossible for the present staff to satisfy their demand. If the photographic sections are to be reduced, it seems to me an unwise economy.

I would simply say in conclusion, unfortunate as it is that the public have to suffer from the effect of these cuts, it will be more unfortunate if the technical efficiency of the museums and the art galleries is permitted to run down, and I ask my hon. Friend most sincerely to give us some assurance that that eventuality will not ultimately come to pass.

5.5 p.m.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

I hope enough has been said already in this debate, both from this side of the Committee and from the other, to convince the Government that they have made a first-class blunder in introducing these ridiculous cuts in the museums' service of the country. It is another and classical instance of the Treasury disregarding public opinion in this country. They have not merely offended all considered opinion which realises the great value of our museums and art galleries, but they have offended public opinion throughout the country. I hope that as a result of what has been said—I am afraid it is difficult to believe that they will—both here in this debate and outside, the Treasury will realise the folly of their ways and will abolish this absurd economy.

I have always been in favour of very considerable economies being made in our national finances. There is very great room for economies of all kinds, but this is not one of them. Combined these economies will make a contribution of £30,000 a year, and the Chancellor is budgeting for a surplus like £350 million. In that state of affairs, what use is this miserable economy? It will be at a cost which cannot be measured in money value, but it will be at the expense of the scholarship, education, culture, enjoyment and entertainment of the people of this country. That is the measure of the price which the Government are asking us to pay for a miserable economy of £30,000.

It is not as if we had been any too generous or too lavish in our expenditure on the national museums and art galleries before these economies were introduced. The amount being spent on culture of this kind leaves a great deal to be desired compared with the amount which is spent in other countries. I am not sure whether it is in order on this Vote to criticise the general museum administration in the country, but I do not think the Treasury have realised—some hon. Members on the benches opposite do not seem to realise it either—that these museums and art galleries are not merely places to which people can go to study the treasures and masterpieces and the works of genius of the past. They are also places to which people go to be educated in standards and tests for modern living today.

These art galleries and museums do a great deal to compensate the public of today for some of the vulgarities that were introduced by the industrialists of the 19th century. They are a fundamental source of our national education, and in so far as they are used for that, they make a great contribution not merely to the culture and scholarship of the State, but to wise and sensible living by the people of the country.

Other hon. Members have already referred to the admirable leading article in today's "Times," which refers to the various objects which museums serve. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) pointed out that as a result of this economy the first sufferers will be the public, because the immediate result has been to close down some of the public galleries and museums. That I regard as, firstly, a most serious result, but the secondary result is equally serious, and that is the effect it will have on the scholarship of the future.

I hope that if these cuts are persisted in—and I hope they will not be—we shall have an assurance from the Financial Secretary, if he is able to give it, which I very much doubt, that in none of the museums will there be any hesitation in filling any vacancies for curatorships, or any other scholastic or administrative positions, on the grounds of economy.

The effect of these cuts varies from one museum to another. An hon. Gentleman opposite referred to the Public Record Office. Why should the museum there be closed? Why should a charge be made? People who visit that museum go there either for pure scholarship—and surely it is not sensible to ask them to pay—or because they are foreign visitors or visitors from the provinces, who go as a matter of interest. Why should they be asked to make a payment?

Reference has been made to the London Museum and to the fact that there will be no cuts in the staff there. I do not know whether the Financial Secretary thinks that the present administration of the London Museum is satisfactory. It is housed temporarily at Kensington Palace in totally inadequate and inappropriate accommodation. I have mentioned before that I hope the Government and the London County Council will find a site for the London Museum on the South Bank. London, like every great municipality and cosmopolitan centre, ought to have a museum of its own, worthy of its name and properly housed, and I think the appropriate site is on the South Bank. It is no credit to the Government to reflect that some museums, such as the London, have not to make reductions in their staffs.

What of those who have had to make reductions? Does the Financial Secretary realise the inconvenience caused to scholars who find that part of a museum is closed on alternate days, or that they can only go to museums by obtaining special permission? That is not very satisfactory. For example, suppose I wanted to study Chinese sculpture at the British Museum and to compare it with Egyptian sculpture. I should now have to go there on separate days whereas, in order properly to make a comparison, I ought to be able to do so on the same day.

In addition to the hardships and difficulties caused by these economies there is the enormous loss of prestige from the fact that foreign visitors are finding that the former free and open access to our museums and art galleries on any day and at any time is hedged about with restrictions, the precise details of which it is difficult for them to ascertain. I am not in favour of closing a museum on any day of the week. The French system by which all museums are closed on Mondays is at least intelligible, because the public know where they are. As a result of the present economies nobody interested in these matters knows from one day to another what he can see or what he cannot.

There was the case the other day of a very distinguished visitor from the Egyptian Ministry of Education. He particularly wanted to see something in a museum. He was only here for a very short visit. He went to a particular gallery, but it was closed. He made an application to visit it specially, but was at first told that he could not do so. Finally, one of the few remaining wardens had to be detailed from another part of the building to be in constant attendance on the visitor while he was making his special visit to the gallery, thus depleting the staff of wardens guarding other parts of the building. It made the foreign visitor very uncomfortable, because instead of examining objects at his leisure he had to do so in a hurried manner. That is not the kind of service we ought to be providing in our museums, in which our country has hitherto taken such a great pride.

There is another point about these niggardly economies which is equally serious and has not yet been mentioned. I was very surprised to find that the museums had raised their fees for reproducing photographs of exhibits. We are hard put to it, owing to the high cost of printing, and paper shortage, to produce artistic publications of a quality to compete in international repute with those produced, say, in the United States or in Switzerland. Distinguished workers in this field have occasion from time to time to reproduce exhibits from our museums in the books they are writing. The fees charged for such reproduction used to be purely nominal, but they have now been increased to as much as a guinea for each reproduction. Surely that is an unnecessary and unwarranted tax on scholarship. What is the result? It is now more difficult for those interested in describing the treasures of our museums to reproduce as many of them by way of illustration as they would like to. Therefore they become less known—I know the Financial Secretary is not particularly interested in this subject. It is good of him to be here. I was saying—

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

I heard the hon. Member.

Mr. Fletcher

I commend this matter to his attention. It is hard that the hon. Gentleman should have been left with the burden of trying to defend this indefensible measure on behalf of the Government. I do not know who was responsible for it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has a high standard of artistic taste. His whole history and connections are associated with some of those who have devoted a good deal of time and money to the patronage of culture. It is inconsistent with his general outlook on life that he should seek to defend this mean, niggardly, shortsighted and quite unnecessary measure.

For those reasons, I hope we shall hear before this debate is ended that the Treasury have thought better of this measure and are prepared to reverse their decision in order that the public can have the free, cheap and open access to our museums which they have hitherto enjoyed.

5.22 p.m.

Sir Edward Keeling (Twickenham)

We on this side of the Committee are pledged to a reduction of national expenditure, and I must disagree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) when he says that the Government ought not to have postponed the opening of Osterley House, which is to be an annexe to the Victoria and Albert Museum. I understand that the reasons for postponing that opening were that the money and materials and labour could be put to better use. In the circumstances I think it was right to postpone the opening, though I hope very much that Osterley House will be opened next year.

At the same time, I agree with what was said on the other side of the Committee on the general question. I cannot approve of the action of the Government. Because the amount involved was small, and therefore presumably it was not thought worth while to argue the matter, the Treasury appears to have rationed the museums and galleries. If ever there was a case in which it is not suitable to effect a cut by rationing, surely it is that of the museums and the galleries.

Apparently there was no consultation with any of those responsible. In my opinion there should have been a conference to decide how, if at all, economies could be brought about. Instead of that, there was this arbitrary cut by rule of thumb, and the results on learning and on aesthetic culture have been little short of deplorable. I regret very much that I cannot support the Government tonight.

5.24 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

The Committee will have heard with interest and sympathy the forthright statement made by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir E. Keeling). I am looking forward to the pleasure of accompanying him through the Lobbies tonight when we record our protest against the action taken by the Government on this matter.

The hon. and gallant Member for Belfast, North (Lieut.-Colonel Hyde), who, I regret to see, is not in his place at the moment, is entitled to the credit of having done some pioneering work in this matter, for it was he who raised it on the Adjournment on 25th June. In the course of the Government reply on that occasion, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury made one or two interesting, if not startling observations. He began by saying that there had been a genuine misunderstanding about this matter. Unfortunately, from my point of view and that of those who are interested there has been no misunderstanding; we realise only too well what has happened and what its effect will be.

The only speech made today in support of the policy of the Government has been that delivered by the bon. Member for Edinburgh, West—

Mr. Emrys Hughes


Mr. Wyatt

No. South.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

I am being misguided by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), who, I thought, was an authority on Scottish geography.

As for the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) I will content myself by saying that it is a measure of the weakness, the futility and the stupidity of the case of the Government that it has to rely on the support of that hon. Member, and that only that kind of speech can be made in support of its policy.

The hon. and gallant Member for Belfast, North asked about the nature of the staff that is being dispensed with. It appears that 84 persons are involved, and the impression I have formed is that the majority are not technical staff or high class administrative staff but industrial staff. These 84 men or women are either wardens, cleaners or doorkeepers. The hon. Member for Edinburgh. South appealed for volunteers. He suggested that people might be only too pleased to act as guides and, in that way, the museums and art galleries could be kept open. I intervened to point out that the root of the problem here is the way in which these economies are being effected, namely, by dispensing with the industrial staff I have mentioned.

The most flagrant case of all is that of the Public Record Office Museum where the savings are to be effected by dispensing with five employees. So far as I can gather, they do not include the Director, Deputy-Director or librarians but consist of those people without whom it is not possible to keep the museum open to the general public.

What is particularly cowardly about the attitude adopted by the Financial Secretary is the circular that was sent out by the Treasury. We do not know what it said because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) pointed out, it was a cyclostyled circular in which was inserted the figure showing of what cut ought to be made by the office or Department to which it was addressed. The Financial Secretary, in the course of the Adjournment debate to which I have referred, said: We have not closed any gallery or given any instruction to do so. In fact, the matter is one for the museum authorities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1952; Vol. 502, c. 2409.] I submit that that is one of the most cowardly forms of defence that any Government can adopt by way of excusing certain economies, avoidable or inevitable as the case may be.

It is clear that the Government—the Chancellor, the Financial Secretary, and the Treasury—must accept responsibility for this decision, and it is in breach of all the traditions to which we attach any value that the Government should seek to transfer the blame for that unpopular and unjustifiable decision from their own shoulders to the shoulders of the distinguished and devoted public servants who are in charge of these galleries and museums.

The Financial Secretary went on to say that he rejected entirely the suggestion that the cut inevitably involved the closure of public gallery space. If he sends out a circular to a museum or a gallery stating that there must be a 5 per cent. cut in the staff, obviously that circular is sent out by the Treasury under the assumption that such a cut would not involve any closure of public gallery space.

When it was found by those directly concerned that it was impossible to make the cuts which the Government were seeking without closing gallery space, I submit that the Financial Secretary or the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have entered into conference with the heads of these museums and art galleries with a view to finding what was the best way in which these cuts could be made without serious detriment to the general public.

I will quote one further statement by the Financial Secretary, one which he made towards the end of his reply in the Adjournment debate of 25th June. It occurs at column 2411 of HANSARD of that date. We had been pleading with him to mitigate the effects of these cuts, and this is how he faced his administrative responsibility: I very much hope that those who are responsible for the executive decisions in this field will take note of what has been said this evening."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1952; Vol. 502, c. 2411.] The Committee will observe that he does not think it incumbent upon him to take any note of what the House said on that occasion. He again passes the buck, if I may use a colloquialism, either to civil servants in the Treasury or to the heads of these museums, hoping that they will take note of what we in the House or in this Committee may have to say on the subject.

We ask the Financial Secretary and the Government not to seek to disembarrass themselves in this rather shabby way of their responsibility for what is an even shabbier and more paltry device—namely, the hope of saving £30,000 by cuts imposed on these museums. We have been trying to find out who has the responsibility for this decision, and the remarks which I have quoted from the Financial Secretary's speech seem to indicate that he himself is unwilling to accept that responsibility. It may be that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is responsible, but we do not know, and we should like to hear what the Financial Secretary has to say about it.

At the moment the Public Record Office Museum is closed indefinitely, so that access to important national treasures is denied to the public of this country and to visitors from abroad—such as the Magna Carta and documents of historic interest to visitors from the United States. At present we are spending money in the United States in urging people to come to this country to see our national treasures, but when they get here they find that the Public Record Office Museum, which contains some fascinating documents from the time of George III —for instance, correspondence which passed between him and Washington—is closed to those visitors from whom we are seeking to obtain dollars to help us bridge the dollar gap.

In the course of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Belfast, North I ventured to point out that on 26th June the Financial Secretary gave a Written answer to a non-Oral Question— and I repeat this because it is a further indication of the dubious method being followed by the Financial Secretary in seeking to evade his responsibilities: It is for the authorities of the Public Record Office to decide whether and when they can re-open the Museum."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th June, 1952; Vol. 502, c. 205.] Surely that is playing with words? It is a fact that, as a result of a Treasury circular, the authorities at the Public Record Office were left with no option in the matter. It was the Treasury who forced the closing down of the Public Record Office Museum in Chancery Lane. If they seek to deny their responsibility, then it should have been their duty to point out to the authorities of the Public Record Office that it was possible to comply with the Treasury circular without closing the museum altogether; but that they did not do. They imposed an arbitrary cut and took not the slightest trouble thereafter to find out how the cut would work in terms of accessibility to or availability of the exhibits in the museum.

Even at this late stage, the Government should be advised to bear in mind the comparison between the £30,000 which it is hoped to save by this economy and the total amount of £4,000 million of our National Budget; and they should try to cultivate a sense of proportion. As has been pointed out, the Government have sought to do a paltry, mean and niggardly thing. I hope it is not too late to appeal to them to change their mind. If they do change their mind, I can promise them for myself, and I think also on behalf of my hon. Friends, that we shall not twit them in future with having had to change their mind. This was an economy which they sought to make without appreciating the consequences which inevitably flow from seeking to apply to museums and art galleries the same kind of test as that which they apply to Government Departments employing thousands of civil servants both on the administrative and industrial sides.

In this case the Government have used a weapon which was not applicable to our museums and art galleries. As the Financial Secretary himself admitted in the Adjournment debate to which I have referred, these cuts are all part of a general scheme for a reduction of the numbers employed in the public service. It may well be that, as a result of Government policy in other directions, the numbers employed in the public service can be reduced, have been reduced and will be further reduced.

The last field in which these Draconian methods can be successfully applied is in our museums and art galleries. I therefore appeal to the Financial Secretary to say that the matter is being reconsidered. Otherwise, I very much hope that my hon. and right hon. Friends will seek to press this matter to a Division.

5.41 p.m.

Mr. J. E. S. Simon (Middlesbrough, West)

I am quite sure that this debate has shown one thing, and that is that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee view with the greatest reluctance any measure which cuts off our people from any part of our cultural heritage. Nevertheless, we can, I think, put that forward without in any way approbating what seemed to me to be the intellectual arrogance of the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) when he made use of the facts produced the other day by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Lieut.-Colonel Hyde).

Nor is it necessary to go to the length of the exaggerations which we heard from the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who told us a touching personal story about the way he stopped a child scratching furniture. There has never been a time when there was a warder in every gallery in the Victoria and Albert Museum; and I cannot recollect a time when there was ever a warder, at any time when I have been there, in that particular gallery downstairs.

After all, even in the main gallery of the National Gallery itself, in spite of all the warders we had before the war, there was the desecration of the Rokeby Venus, slashed by the suffragettes. I suppose that, in a way, we ought to be thankful even for that act of cultural desecration if today we are to have replying to this debate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education.

Miss Horsbrugh

I was not responsible for that.

Mr. Simon

I hasten to disclaim any personal accusation.

We have, nevertheless, suffered very real loss by the closing of these galleries. In the British Museum, for example, we can no longer see the magnificent gallery of African masks. They are masks donned in their native country by normally mild mannered middle-aged gentlemen in order to simulate completely synthetic fury and indignation and thus frighten their enemies, political and otherwise. That is no longer on view; and, of course, cannot be seen anywhere else. At the National History Museum the gallery of mammals is closed. No longer can we see a lot of animals petrified in gestures grotesque and powerful. That cannot be seen anywhere else. At the Tate Gallery we can no longer see a lady with fish in her hair. Those things are quite irreplaceable. But, quite seriously, with them go a number of matters which we can very ill-spare.

I suggest that whenever we rail, as we do, against measures of economy, we ought to make sure that we suggest where the corresponding sum can be found. During the war there was a very valuable exercise laid down in every staff that when anybody suggested any increase in an establishment they should suggest where the corresponding decrease should be made. Today, no serious suggestion has been made as to where this sum of £30,000 could be found.

There is one other thing that I think is incumbent on us, and that is to see, if we must have economies of this sort, what we can do to mitigate them. I suggest that at the very least it should be widely known that students can have recourse to any gallery which is closed. That is no new thing when certain portions of a gallery are cut off from the general public. The Print Room at the British Museum is, I suppose, the most famous example. Students have always been able to have recourse to the Print Room, and I ask whoever replies for the Government to assure us that it is widely known that anyone who has a particular interest in any gallery shall be able to have recourse to it.

I also suggest that we ought at any rate to consider a system of charging. That is really not such a retrograde step. Reference was made by the hon. Member for Aston to the fact that the galleries of armour at the Wallace Collection are now closed. That is true. But there are magnificent armouries, as hon. Members know well, at the Tower of London, and one has always had to pay for admission to those galleries. Any system of charging would, of course, have to ensure that it did not stop anyone who genuinely could not afford admission, so there ought, I suggest, to be only certain days on which admission should be charged for. I may be wrong about this, but it is my recollection that before the war there was such a system at the National Gallery.

Mr, Ronald Williams (Wigan)

I want to be quite sure that I am following the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument. Is he suggesting that the Government should withdraw this proposal, since they can quite easily obtain this very small sum of £30,000 by a very moderate charge? Is he suggesting that the Government should change their view and put into effect the suggestion he is making? Or is he suggesting that the Government should adhere to their point of view and insist on these cuts, and, having insisted on these cuts, seek to bolster up the national economy by a system of charges?

Mr. Simon

The point I was trying to make was this. If we are assured by the Government, with knowledge of the national finances, that £30,000 a year must be found on the Museums Votes, then I ask the Government to examine the suggestion for a limited form of charging to raise £30,000 so that all the galleries now open can remain open. As I say, that ought to be on only certain days of the week, so that everybody can be assured of free admission to these galleries. It ought not to apply to students any more than the restrictions on the Print Room at the British Museum apply to them. Consideration ought also to be given to whether it ought not to apply, as the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said, to young persons.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) mentioned another matter which seemed to me to arise in the present situation. If the galleries are to be closed at the moment, I ask the Government seriously to consider whether we should not use the exhibits in them which are not on general view by loaning them to provincial galleries. I should like to see that go further and to have a free lending abroad of the national exhibits. I know that there are legal difficulties at the moment, but I and many of my hon. Friends believe that those legal difficulties should be overcome.

Finally, I ask the Committee to view this matter against the general situation of this country. Let us never forget that there are other ways of losing objects of artistic value than by closing galleries. I am sure that many hon. Members who served abroad, as I did, must call to mind many relics of ancient civilisation which one saw. One suddenly burst through into a clearing in the jungle, and there was a great monument richly carved and sculptured, which was actually being forced apart by jungle roots.

One has seen two caverns ornamented with wonderful pictures—the Ajanta paintings—where the sands had drifted in. These monuments of civilisation, monuments of art as great in their own way as anything we have in our national museums and galleries, have deteriorated and been destroyed and have decayed because the civilisation which they represented has fallen. It has fallen owing partly to an external enemy, but more often to inept leadership on the part of the governors of that community, governors who were profligate of the national wellbeing, the economy—taxes raised, people groaning under the burden of wars until, gradually, owing to improvident government, that civilisation deteriorated and these great monuments have been lost.

I ask hon. Members to view this matter against the general background of the national economy. Unless we can save this country generally from the certain ruin which faces us unless we balance our economy, it will be idle to talk of water colours and armouries—

Mr. Wyatt

Is the hon. and learned Member aware that the 84 men who have been dismissed are, for the most part. rather elderly, and that even if they were to go into industry would probably find it difficult to get jobs. Even if they might be switched to other kinds of work, which is doubtful, they are unlikely to help our export trade greatly or save us from the disasters which the hon. and learned Member now envisages.

Mr. Simon

Nothing is easier than to take every economy on its own instead of considering it as part of the general background of the position which we have to meet. Each one of these economies can be so attacked.

Much as we all dislike these cuts which have been made, ardently as we should seek to mitigate and avoid them, I ask hon. Members not to lose sight of the general background against which they stand, not to lose sight of the fact that they are part of the steps which the Government have taken to save the country from ruin, and to remember that these great artistic treasures and the heritage they represent would disappear with us if we went down to ruin.

5.56 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

The speech of the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) was a pretty half-hearted defence of this economy. There was one point at which I was a little moved—when we broke through the jungle and found the ancient stone monument sitting there, cracking up all the time. I felt inclined to say to the hon. and learned Member, if I might use a well-known Latin tag, "Si monu-mentum requiris circumspice."

There it was—one defence on the lines of "Well, when you have to economise, economise on everything." I have been listening to the speeches from the benches opposite, and I agree with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) that he was the only person who made any defence of the economy. He made it merely by putting his tongue into his cheek in order to avoid putting his hand into his pocket.

No one else has really had a word to say for it. Let us see exactly what has happened. The museum and gallery authorities have been told that they have to reduce by so much somehow; it has been left to them how they do it. Of course some have done it in one way, some in another. In some cases this or that has been closed indefinitely, in other cases there has been a partial closing, and no doubt in other cases there have been economies at the expense of students and others.

I wish to state the position on the most broad and general lines. What has really happened is that the Government, which in spite of imminent bankruptcy and the rest of it, declined to put any additional burden on the country in the Budget, and in fact reduced the Profits Tax, have chosen to tell all public Departments, irrespective of what they do, that they must economise everywhere. The result, so far as the matter we are discussing is concerned, is that this country is to be obliged to spend £30,000 per year less on its museums and art galleries.

I should like to put to the Committee the question, do they really think that that is either a wise or a right thing to do at the moment? I will deal first with the wisdom of the matter. I confess that I did not quite follow my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) in mourning quite so deeply as he did for the Pennsylvanian visitor deprived of a sight of a pipe roll in the Record Office. That is perhaps pushing the matter a little too far, but people do come to this country sometimes for such a special purpose, though more often to see what we have to show them, not only in our countryside but in the heritage of centuries of civilisation in which we are entitled to take some pride, centuries of civilisation and of achievement in our artistic efforts of which we are, on the whole, not very good advertisers.

There is a great deal to be said for our own works of art. We are not in the habit—since the time of the Industrial Revolution—of saying it at all loudly or as convincingly as we ought to say it. Still, people know there is that heritage here, and it is one of their main reasons for coming to this country. From the mere point of view of the narrowest Treasury economy it seems to me exceedingly foolish to save £30,000 by arranging, for example, that certain parts of the British Museum shall be open on even days and others on odd days. And this habit of transferring our parking arrangements to the fine arts is really rather silly. It makes us a little ridiculous as a nation in the eyes of other countries.

I go further; I say it is dead wrong to do this kind of thing. We have, as I have just said, a very fine record of our own in the arts. It is open to question whether it has been as good as it might be, but it is certainly not in question that at present we are uncommonly niggardly about anything that has to do with the arts. We have not got the room to show the pictures and other works of art which we possess, even if we opened our museums to the full.

If we look at the payments concerned with any artistic or educational activity, we shall find that it is just there that we tend to underpay. It is not without significance that we have never had a Ministry of Fine Arts in this country, though other countries have one and have had good reason to be proud of it.

It is really rather like this country at its worst, that the person who has to answer for the question of whether the museums and art galleries shall or shall not be wholly opened, partially opened, or whatever it may be, is, under the British constitution, of which we are all justifiably proud, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. The fact of the matter is that the English have been called barbarians, and there is something in it. If we go on in this way it will not be very long before we shall be following Mr. Hitler and the Nazis and burning the books, and the rest of it. That sounds very remote. It could not happen here, of course—quite impossible. But this is a thoroughly backward step. It is quite a small one, it is a silly one, a stupid one, but none the less it is a backward step.

I say to hon. Members opposite who, recognising that, as did the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), for instance, tried to get out of it by saying, "Oh, well, ought not a 1d. or 6d., or whatever amount it is, be charged for admittance?", that that too would be a backward step. It would not be quite as bad as denying people admission altogether, but it would be a backward step. Is not it about time—

Mr. Hollis

Will the hon. and learned Member elaborate that a little? Why would it be a backward step? It would not keep anybody out of the museums.

Mr. Mitchison

I do not know, perhaps the hon. Member is more certain of that than I am. If we go into a gallery or a museum now-a-days, one of the things that I, at any rate, notice is that really poor people come in—not merely for shelter, as one hon. Member opposite suggested—but to look at what is there, to learn from it and to admire it. And who is to say that the stirrings of the artistic soul are confined to those who can afford to pay 6d. whenever they want to?

Mr. Hollis

The hon. and learned Member cannot say on the one hand that there is this enormous public demand to get into the galleries, and on the other hand that if a charge of 2d. or 6d. is made they will be completely empty. I agree there is the particular case of people who could not afford that small fee. But nobody is suggesting that there shall not be free days when they can come.

Mr. Mitchison

I am not suggesting that if we charge 2d. or 6d. the galleries will be empty. I am merely suggesting that if we charge for the admission to galleries and museums, just as if we charged for admission to education, we might shut out the very people we want the most.

We have had artists from humble folk and we still have. I do not think it is right that a civilised and—in spite of what hon. Members opposite say—a wealthy country should economise at the expense of what is not only beautiful but promising in the effect it may have on those who see it. There are in these museums and galleries not merely things one can look at as though they were dead. These are the sources of artistic inspiration, the font of artistic education, something that can stir the simplest and the plainest people as deeply, and perhaps more deeply, than it can stir the over-cultured among us.

I remember one director of a northern gallery saying to me that he noticed one rather peculiar thing. He had just bought for the gallery an exceedingly modern picture, and he had great difficulty in getting it past his own selection board. When he put it in the gallery that was the picture which was looked at, not as a matter of curiosity but as a matter of admiration, by the ordinary men and women who came into the gallery and who had no sort of special knowledge of pictures or anything of the kind. I think that people underestimate both the value and the extent of popular taste and the possibilities of it. Whether that applies to books or not I must leave to the hon. Member for Devizes to judge. I am speaking for the moment of pictures.

I hope against hope that the Government will reconsider this. It was only part of a routine cut. It is not the kind of thing that, if it is re-considered, will break the Government. But it is the kind of thing which may do incredible harm, not merely to a political party or to one Government, but to the general reputation of this country, which, after all, we all have to consider. It may do harm, not only to that, but to the artistic impulse of this country; to the possibilities of what the young and perhaps the old, but particularly the young, may get from the treasures we have inherited or bought.

After all, they are public treasures. To close them makes them useless. To shut them away prevents their being used, either as objects of admiration or as objects of study. This is comparatively speaking a small amount. We have been toying with—what was it?—£160 million for the food subsidies. And £60 million suddenly appeared the other day because we had thought the cut was for the whole amount. But, oh, no, it was only at the rate of so-and-so. I do not think we are called upon to suggest to the Government or the Treasury exactly how or where they should find this £30,000. But we are entitled to say today that, as a mere Treasury point of view, from the pure point of view of tourism, it is extremely short-sighted.

From any other point of view it is so thoroughly unjustifiable, so thoroughly in the worst caricature of the British at their stupidest, that we really ought not to persist in it. It requires a bit of courage sometimes, having put something forward, to drop it. But I do not believe that the Financial Secretary is deficient in courage, and I know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a real lover of the Arts. Could not they put their heads together and, for once, beat a dignified and meritorious retreat?

6.8 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Bucks, South)

I shall not detain the Committee for more than a few moments. I certainly shall not attempt to follow the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) in the excitement which he has generated over this rather small cut which has been made in the expenditure on museums and art galleries.

I am sorry, as he is, that this sort of cut, however small, has had to be made. It is a proportionate cut forming part of the general reduction in expenditure. It is quite obvious that anyone can take the popular course of advocating economy in general and attacking it in particular. There is a great deal to be said against any economy, because it reduces the interests of some particular class of people. No economy is popular in its actual application. Nor is it beneficial in its actual application.

The benefit which is provided is the general benefit of the country, by reducing the expenditure to a point which the country can afford. If there is any personal advantage to be derived from this cut, it is that if any charge, however small, is imposed upon the entrance into our galleries and museums, it will underline the fact, which should never be lost sight of, that everything has to be paid for, including art.

I do not agree with the hon. and learned Member for Kettering when he says, firstly, that the artistic impulse will be restrained by this slight impediment, or that any substantial number of people would be kept out of museums and art galleries by the imposition of a small charge. I cannot think of anybody who will be kept out of a museum that he wants to get into because of a charge of 6d. for entering it. The same applies to art galleries.

My recollection of most of the art galleries I have visited on the Continent of Europe is that I have had to pay at nearly all of them. I can think of only one or two where I got in free. I would say to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering that the artistic capabilities of the Italians are not notably inferior to our own, nor have they been inferior for the last 500 or 600 years. I do not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman would get into many art galleries or museums in the City of Florence without paying a small fee for the privilege.

Mr. R. Williams

I should like to put to the hon. Gentleman a point which I put to one of his hon. Friends who made a similar speech. Does the hon. Member say that this is a bad principle and that this cut which is proposed by the Government is something that makes him feel uncomfortable? Because he feels uncomfortable about it does he seek to find in some other way the £30,000 which the Government want? Does he suggest that that should be provided for by the introduction of a charge? Is that, in short compass, the argument which he is putting?

Mr. Bell

The hon. Member is taking the question to a ridiculous point. I feel uncomfortable, and I regret that art galleries and museums should be open less often than they are at present. I do not regret the cut if it is necessary and if it is a proportionate part of the general economies introduced by the Government.

Mr. R. Williams

Does the hon. Gentleman want the cut and the charge?

Mr. Bell

I do not want the cut in itself. As I have said, although the economies in general are of advantage to the country, each separate economy in its effects is naturally undesirable. That is obvious. I advance the alternative of a charge as something which, while preserving the economy, might keep the museums and art galleries open longer. That is obviously desirable.

I turn to a matter in which the Financial Secretary to the Treasury knows that I am interested in season and out of season. I hope that it is in season today and, having scrutinised the Vote very carefully, I am confident that I shall be in order in raising it. I refer to my standing grievance that the Reading Room of the British Museum is closed at 5 o'clock in the evening, therefore confining its use to professional scholars.

The only time when someone who is not a whole-time scholar is able to use the principal reading room of the United Kingdom is on Saturdays. Then it is difficult to get in and, in any case, no prolonged and intensive research can be carried out by someone confined to such Saturdays as he is able to devote to attendance at the British Museum.

Mr. Mitchison

I sympathise very much with what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but am I not right in suggesting that if in fact the British Museum Reading Room were kept open longer either additional staff or additional remuneration to the existing staff would be required?

Mr. Bell

The hon. and learned Gentleman is rather unfairly drawing me back to the particular considerations of today when I was trying as unobtrusively as possible to slide away from them in order to deal with this matter. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that the opening of the British Museum Reading Room has not been affected by the recent cuts. However, having consulted the Vote I am confident that my remarks, if not germane to the preceding speeches, are strictly in order. Therefore, I seize the opportunity to drive home once again a point I have made on other occasions.

It is regrettable that this Reading Room should be closed so early in the evening. At Oxford the Bodleian Library and the Radcliffe Camera are open until 10 o'clock, and I understand that the University Library at Cambridge is also open to a fairly advanced hour in the evening. Yet, at the British Museum, the serious scholar cannot get books after 5 p.m. I hope that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, who is apparently the final arbiter on these matters of culture—and who more suitable?

Mr. Wyatt


Mr. Bell

A most unworthy interjection. When I listen to the almost baroque eloquence of my hon. Friend, I am always reminded of the arts. I think that it is most appropriate that he should be the person to decide. I hope that, as soon as the financial state of the country permits it, my hon. Friend will get round to the question of opening the Reading Room of the British Museum until 10 o'clock on every night in the week.

6.16 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

We have had an interesting and profitable debate which was opened in a speech that showed a great deal of research by my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt). We have had a number of contributions, all of them short, but all of them dealing quite plainly with the subject matter which we asked the Committee to discuss, except perhaps for some parts of the speech by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell).

The views of hon. Members opposite have varied over a wide range, from that of the hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir E. Keeling), who finds himself unable to support the Government, to that of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling), who I gathered supported the Government with some reluctance because, in his opinion, they have not gone far enough.

Since the debate has been in progress I have had one piece of information which, I think, illustrates the kind of difficulty about which we are protesting. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has informed me since the debate began that during this afternoon he has received two Norwegian visitors who went down to Greenwich to see the Queen's House and the National Maritime Museum and found that this was one of the days on which the Queen's House is closed.

Surely it would be desirable that a great maritime Ally of ours like Norway should find available for its citizens in this country the very fine examples of our maritime history linked with that of Scandinavia which exist in the National Maritime Museum. It is one of the museums which I myself visit as often as I can. I am pleased to say that, in spite of my greater age, I am a little more fit for walking round galleries than my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and can put up a record of rather more than half an hour.

I could not help thinking that when we got to the speech of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South this really was a fine example from the other side of the Committee of the historic dialogue between the Walrus and the Carpenter. The Government weep, they deeply sympathise, but, at the same time, they sort out those of the largest size. I suggest that the language we have heard from the other side of the Committee about the effect of £30,000 on the national balance sheet is an astounding example of exaggeration in politics applied to a degree that, in the minds of all sensible people, will defeat itself. We were told by the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) that this was one of the measures by which we should escape the certain ruin which confronts US.

Thirty thousand pounds—why I understand that there is to be a race run on an obscure racecourse in the next few days in which the prize is to be £27,000. The Government had better get a horse from the National Stud, and get it entered in their own name. After all, the Prime Minister is a member of the Jockey Club, and they have only to get the right jockey—the jockey is more important than the horse—and they ought to be able to get the greater part of this sum of money. Really, the language that they use about this as an economy is not worthy of the debating skill of the House of Commons.

We have had some very valuable speeches from this side of the Committee, and I was very interested to observe that, once we get to the question of culture, beauty and education, the Tory Party has only one suggestion—"Charge a fee for it." We on this side of the Committee believe in the free access of all citizens to such repositories of beauty, culture and learning as this country possesses, and I should not like the Financial Secretary to think that any legislation to impose additional fees, or fees where they are not already charged, would be other than most severely opposed from this side of the Committee.

I want to deal in the main with the position at the British Museum, because that is an institution which will be celebrating its 200th anniversary next year, and which operates under an original Statute which incorporated it in 1753, the preamble to which ends with these words: Therefore, to the end that the said Museum or Collection may be preserved and maintained, not only for the Inspection and Entertainment of the Learned and the Curious, but for the general Use and Benefit of the Publick… Be it enacted… The history of the last 20 years or so shows an astounding development in the use of the museums of the country by the Government for governmental purposes. The research departments of the Natural History Section of the British Museum at South Kensington have carried out, and are carrying out, a number of experiments into tropical diseases and their causes, and into matters connected with Civil Defence, as I know from the questions that I submitted to them when I was Home Secretary. They have managed to get together—the British Museum and the Natural History Section of the British Museum; they are not two museums, but two buildings of one museum—they have got together a group of men of science and learning who have no match in any other country in the world.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) posed the essential question in this debate—the question that was not asked by the Government when they issued their circular. When we ask a museum to economise, and a museum of the calibre of the British Museum, do we want them to economise on the kind of people to whom I have just alluded, or are they to economise on the warders and cleaners, whose presence and whose work enable the museum to be kept open in a state fit for the public to use and in a state in which the preservation of the treasures therein contained can be guaranteed?

That was the problem that confronted the trustees of the British Museum. I was a trustee of the British Museum when I was Home Secretary, and, when I ceased to be Home Secretary, for some reason best known to themselves, my late colleagues on the British Museum trustees asked that I should be continued, and, by a vote of the majority of the members—who normally sit on the Front Bench opposite—I was re-elected, but I want to make it quite clear that I was not responsible for what came about, because it was done during the interregnum.

I say quite frankly that, if I had been confronted with the question posed by the Financial Secretary in order to save £30,000 in all, I should have been bound to give the same answer as the trustees gave at that time. If they were to break up the skilled staff which they have in their employ, it would be a lasting disaster—I use the word advisedly—to the work which they undertake for the Government of the country in pursuance of many tasks which the Government ask them to undertake.

The long-term effects of the recent cuts will be the results of economy effected by non-recruitment. Five vacancies are not to be filled, and these are not on the cleaning staff, but on the technical and what my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central called the civiatorial staff—it was a word I had not heard before, but I will adopt it. Failure to recruit apprentices to expert craftsmen will also affect the technical services. For example, in the Department of Oriental Antiquities, there is a gentleman who was trained in Japan and who is shortly to retire. He has a unique knowledge of his craft, and there is no other person who can replace him. Unless apprentices can be secured to serve under him, it will be necessary to send people to Japan to get the necessary knowledge and skill.

We on this side of the Committee regard this as a paltry and unworthy economy. The amount of money is so trivial as really to make the whole of this debate an example of exposing unnecessary and foolish cheeseparing rather than a real exercise in the arts of Government by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. We cannot accept any of the excuses offered by the Financial Secretary in the debate on 25th June. We very much resent the way in which he tried to shuffle off his responsibilities on to the shoulders of the people to whom, knowing the duties they had to discharge, he left no alternative as to the way that they should meet the wishes which he expressed.

We believe that the replacement of this £30,000 is amply justified. We do not take the view that even if it were met by charges that would be a satisfactory way of dealing with this particular issue. Unless the hon. Gentleman can say something better to us today than he said on 25th June, we shall have no alternative at the end of his speech but to ask the Committee to consider a reduction of the Vote.

I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider whether this great country, with these treasures which it possesses, is really acting worthily, not merely of its past but of its present, in denying, in a manner that is bound to be erratic, and therefore all the more annoying, access to those treasures not merely by our own people but by those who come to visit our shores.

6.31 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

On the whole, I agree with what the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said about this having been a valuable debate. Indeed, with the conspicuous exception of the opening speech, it was one that was conducted with a very genuine concern for the merits of the matter. It was a very remarkable debate in that it brought the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) into active support, not only of the right hon. Member for South Shields, but, what is even more exciting, of the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) who, the Committee will recall, is described in the current issue of "Tribune" as having adopted for himself' the rôle of the grand inquisitor of Bevanism. I am bound to say that I thought the gesture of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale a particularly agreeable one.

Mr. Bevan

May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that if he would withdraw the £30,000 economy I should become an enthusiastic supporter of his action, too?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I do not know whether even at the price of £30,000 that would be a sound transaction.

Before coming to what seems to me to be the kernel of this debate, I want to deal with one or two of the points raised during the course of it. A number of hon. Members, notably my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), raised the question of charging in the museums. Several other hon. Members expressed rather differing views upon the subject. My hon. Friend asked me the specific question as to what was the legal position. I have made inquiries and the substance of it is this.

In the case of the British Museum and of the Natural History Museum, admission is free under their statutes, and therefore any question of charging would involve legislation. So far as the greater part of the other institutions are concerned, that is to say, the National Gallery, the Tate, the Wallace Collection, the National Portrait Gallery, the London Museum and the National Maritime Museum, there is legal authority to charge if it were thought fit so to do.

The Committee may be interested to know the history of this matter. Charges for admission to those institutions—generally of the order of 6d.—were, in fact, made on one or two days a week up to 1948. I understand that the object at that time was not the raising of funds, but the creating of less crowded conditions in which people who desired to make perhaps a prolonged study of the exhibits could do so in greater peace and quiet than on the more popular days.

The income in respect of all this came to no more than £3,500 a year. Therefore, quite apart from the merits of the matter, one of the complications in the way of charging is that unless the charge is fairly high—to which there are manifest objections—the cost of collecting it may make a large hole in the actual amount realised. Therefore, while I would not wish in principle necessarily to reject what my hon. Friend has said if a better solution cannot be found, I am bound to remind the Committee that the question of charging is a somewhat difficult one.

Indeed, there is a long history to it. As a matter of fact there was a recommendation in favour of charging dating back to 1923, and, in fact, certain legislation affecting the British Museum and the Natural History Museum was introduced round about 1923 in order to enable charges to be made in those institutions, but that legislation, after passing some stages in the House, was withdrawn. So far as the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum are concerned, there is nothing in the Statute to say that they can or cannot charge. Consequently, the legal position is sufficiently obscure to prevent my hazarding an opinion upon it.

As far as the Public Record Office is concerned there are, so I understand, no legal difficulties in the way of charging. At this stage I do not want to say more than, as will appear from what I have to say later, that we are looking into all aspects of this matter, appreciating as we do the genuine concern to which the closing of certain parts of these institutions has given rise, and, while not excluding charges in principle, there are many difficulties which a prolonged investigation of the matter since 1923 has disclosed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes also asked whose was the legal right to close the premises. In general it is, I am told, within the authority of the trustees themselves to decide whether or not to close them. They have a legal authority so to do. As hon. Members are aware, the constitutional position of these institutions varies. Indeed, it is a very complex little part of our system of society, and I believe that in one case, if not in more, the authority of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education would be required for the closing of galleries. But, in general, I think the Committee can proceed on the basis that this is a matter which is within the authority of the trustees or comparable persons in charge of the museums.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) asked about the position of students. In general, it is still possible to make arrangements for students to visit those galleries which have been closed to public exhibition. I understand that prior notice has to be given, and I would not like to appear to commit the directors of the museums by a complete and dogmatic answer on that point; but, in general, I am told that it is the intention of the museum authorities, notwithstanding that a gallery has been closed to the public, to make appropriate arrangements for students to attend.

I now come to one or two points that arose in the very remarkable speech of the hon. Member for Aston, who opened the debate. First of all, he took me to task for telling the House, as it then was, in the Adjournment debate the other night that the reduction in staff at the Public Record Office had been one of five. I have confirmed that that is the figure and that the figure from which the total had been reduced to the present level of 154 is 159 as stated by me, and not 166 as stated by him.

What misled him—and I understand how he came to be misled—was the Estimates provision for last year. But in point of fact the figure given in those Estimates, which is 166, was, indeed, the establishment figure, which was subsequently 177. Neither of those figures was attained and the cut therefore fell on the existing October total of 159. The cut was five and reduced that number to 154.

Mr. Wyatt

Will the Financial Secretary now inquire from the Public Record Office, because although there were only 159 on 1st October, 1951, the number did reach a total of 165, which makes the effective cut one of 11?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Gentleman really cannot argue that. The cut was imposed on the October figure. The hon. Gentleman knows that there is a difference between establishment and the authorised manpower ceiling. I am perfectly certain that he learned that, if nothing else, at the War Office. The cut for which this Government was responsible was five, reducing the total from 159 to 154.

I am not under-rating the difficulties of the Public Record Office. They are in a very special position, not least because they are not in substance a museum or gallery at all. They are a very important Department of State with great public responsibility, and the operation of their museum has always been an extremely marginal activity occupying at the most four people out of a staff in the neighbourhood of 150 to 160.

Mr. Bevan

The hon. Gentleman's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) is very interesting, because apparently, after investigation, the Public Record Office was authorised last year to go to a ceiling. It failed to reach that ceiling and yet the staff is being cut this year on a lower figure still. How does the hon. Gentleman reconcile those two facts?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

There is no difficulty at all in reconciling them. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is aware that throughout the public services there are authorised establishments or, if I may use Civil Service jargon, complements.

Mr. Bevan

This was after investigation.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

These complements do not give authority to the Departments concerned to raise the numbers to that figure of manpower at all. Within that figure, and sometimes very conspicuously below, are the authorised manpower totals of the moment. What we are concerned with here, not only with regard to the Public Record Office but also these other institutions, is not the question of what their authorised complements may be, but what the alteration in their actually authorised manpower ceiling was. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman apprehends the difference.

Mr. Bevan

No, and I am afraid my obscurity is shared with the Committee in general.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I think the right hon. Gentleman is really too modest, but that is one of his most endearing features. Perhaps it would be simpler if I put it in another way. The cuts concerned were cuts upon the actual authorised size of staff. That is applicable not only to all the institutions which we are discussing tonight, but to all the institutions over the whole machinery of government in which, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, conspicuous reductions in staff have been effected.

Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)

Suppose the authorised number is 150 and the institution happens to be short of five at the moment because it is going to recruit some staff next week; if the hon. Gentleman cuts the staff by five, it is no cut.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I think the right hon. Gentleman does not quite apprehend the matter. The cut is upon the authorised ceiling for the moment. The fact that there happens to be a vacancy that week does not affect the calculation in any event, and the fact that that vacancy exists may not be known to Her Majesty's Treasury, wise as that body is. The hon. Member for Aston —in that delightful disregard for the finer forms of accuracy which is one of the more genial aspects of his style—said that as a result people could not go to Osterley Park.

Mr. Wyatt

I said that they could not go to Osterley Park and to the house as well.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Gentleman was half right, which is quite good. Unless he was under the delusion that people were denied access to the grounds of Osterley Park, I cannot see why he used the first half of his sentence.

He thought that the Duke of Wellington's dagger seemed in some curious way to be connected with these cuts. In the first place it was not a dagger but a sword, and in the second place the theft took place in 1948.

Then the hon. Member for Aston referred to Ham House which, as it adjoins my constituency, he will appreciate is a place in which I take very great interest. He seemed to imply that it was impossible to go there except in an organised party. In fact, on Saturdays. Bank Holidays and Sunday afternoons it is possible to go to Ham House in the ordinary way still. Organised parties can be taken round at fixed times announced in a leaflet which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education has circulated. People are enabled to go round at 10.30 a.m., 2.30 p.m., 3.30 p.m. and so on. Therefore, I think the hon. Member for Aston was a little inclined to exaggerate.

Mr. Wyatt

The hon. Gentleman is accusing me of inaccuracy. As to the Duke of Wellington's dagger or sword—it does not matter very much what it is called—I said that the fact that it was stolen only underlines the fact that warders are very thin on the ground and that if there had been more warders it is very likely that the sword would not have been stolen. I did not say that the theft was the result of these cuts. As to Ham House, I said that one had to wait until there was a party going round before one could go round.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Member does not mind whether it is a dagger or a sword. Equally it is a very curious statement of his to say that because in 1948 whichever of his own right hon. Friends was responsible did not provide enough warders, that is an argument against my right hon. Friend's arrangements of a greatly superior nature.

If the Committee are to form a clear view of this matter, it is important to get the constitutional and administrative position of these institutions clear. A number of hon. Members have sought to suggest that in some sense I was passing the buck because I have declined to accept detailed administrative responsibility for the arrangements made by each of these museums for the regulation of its internal affairs. It is important that they should realise that each of these museums has its own governing body—in many cases trustees—who hold definite rights of their own under statute or Royal Charter and that there is not the some direct control by Ministers as there is in the case of an ordinary Government Department. I am perfectly certain that the right hon. Member for South Shields, as trustee of the British Museum, would respond with enormous vigour if anybody started giving him orders as to the organisation of the museum. That is very proper.

Mr. Ede

But I should like to be consulted by the Treasury before I received a circular from them as to what would be the alternative ways, if any, in which I could carry out the intention of the circular.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I will come to the question of consultation in a moment. At the moment I am on the point that although different Government Departments—in the case of some of the institutions it is the Treasury, in the case of some the Ministry of Education or the Department of the Secretary of State for Scotland—as sponsoring Departments are responsible for such matters as manpower and provisions of finance, the general internal organisation of museums and galleries is solely within the control of the trustees and of directors who are responsible to the trustees. Therefore, even if my right hon. Friends wanted, they have not in fact got the power to say to any of these institutions, "You shall rearrange your affairs in this way." Nor, I think, would any hon. Member like to see that state of affairs brought into being.

I now come to the two main issues posed by this debate. The first is whether it is right to make a special exemption, from the point of view both of staff and of finance, in favour of these institutions, from the limitations which, as part of the Government's general policy, are being generally imposed both on Government Departments and on organisations supported from public funds. The question is whether a special and peculiar exemption from any limitation should be made in favour of these great institutions; and the second point is, assuming that some limitation is to be imposed, whether that limitation should be or can be so imposed as to limit as far as possible the interference with the public of their enjoyment of the wonderful properties which are housed in these institutions.

These are quite separate and distinct points, and I should like to deal with them separately. First of all, let us get quite clear what has been done. So far as finance is concerned, there is no cut in the accepted sense of the term. In last year's Estimates the total provision made for the staffing of the 14 museums and galleries and for the Public Record Office was £1,241,877. In this year's Estimates the total is £1,326,361—an increase in terms of money of some £85,000. Therefore, in this sphere, as in a good many others, there has not been an absolute cut in the sense of reducing the amount of money made available for the purpose, but a limitation of the increase which otherwise, at a time of rising prices, would have been required if the institutions were to carry on precisely as before.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee how much of the rise to which he refers was really due to increases in salaries which obviously had to be paid any way?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As we are paying more to fewer people, I think the right hon. Gentleman should be able to appreciate that there has clearly been a rise in the amount that they have been paid.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

How much?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am coming to the numbers involved. It is purely a matter of calculation which the right hon. Gentleman himself can do. I have already indicated that at the moment we are spending on staff £85,000 more than was provided in the Estimates in the previous year.

On numbers it is the declared policy of the Government to secure reductions in the numbers employed in Government Departments and Government-supported institutions, and I think this policy has the general support of the majority of the Committee. It has already shown results. It has shown results in the last quarterly return—that is, for the first quarter of this year—with a net reduction of 4,400 in the staffs of Government Departments. The figures for the second quarter are not yet available but I hope they shortly will be.

Such reductions could quite clearly not be obtained without considerable heart-burnings and appreciable reductions in standards, but it is important—and I stress this—that it should be appreciated that the particular cuts raised on these Votes must be considered against the general background. Otherwise, it is pathetically easy to say, "You are not going to help the national economy by worrying about £30,000." That argument can be used against each and every economy that is made.

Mr. Wyatt

Does the hon. Gentleman withdraw the charge of inefficiency that he made in the House on 25th June against the directors and keepers of these museums and galleries when he said: I reject entirely the suggestion that a cut of this nature inevitably involves the closure of public gallery space"?—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 25th June, 1952; Vol. 502, c. 2410.]

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I am not dealing with that aspect of the matter at all.

Mr. Wyatt

Why not?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am not going to model my speech-making on that of the hon. Member, and at the moment I am dealing with another aspect of the matter. Really, the hon. Gentleman does not help to keep my speech within reasonable compass, when I am dealing with one aspect of the matter, by plunging gaily on to a totally different one to which I shall come in due course.

I was reminding the Committee that it is one of the easiest of Parliamentary tricks to say, "You sacrifice so much by a reduction of this sort. That reduction by itself is so small. Why do you do it? " Yet that argument can be successfully adduced against almost every reduction either of staff or of expenditure which this or any Government makes, and I do not think the Committee will put much weight on that particular argument.

During the debate on the Adjournment to which reference has been made, I made it clear what we had done in terms of numbers. Let us have the total figures first. In respect of the 14 museums and galleries, there were in October of last year 2,165 people employed; those were non-industrials. The cuts in staff amounted to 84 non-industrials, reducing the total to 2,081. That figure is still 59 more than the 1939 total of 2,022.

I shall come later, when I deal with the issue of whether or not a reduction of facilities for the public is necessary, to a more detailed analysis of certain of these figures, but at the moment I am trying to deal with the argument which was raised on the Adjournment, and rather less emphatically today, that these bodies should be exempted specially from cuts because they have not shared in the post-war increases in which other departments have indulged. That seems to be one of the two arguments used in favour of making this very special exemption, and I think the figures which I have given show that that argument will not stand up, and that, in fact, the total for the museums and the galleries, even after the cuts have been made, is still above the pre-war figure.

The second and much better argument which was adduced related to their enormous artistic and cultural importance. I know the hon. Member for Aston does not think I am capable of appreciating that, and I am bound to say, in view of his own oratorical style, that I might be tempted to the schoolboy argument of tu quoque. In point of fact, the treasures housed in these institutions are, of course, priceless. The wonderful accumulation that we have here in London is a very important part of our national life. No one would dispute their immense value in every sense of the term.

But it would be a mistake to assume, as seems to have been assumed in this debate, that the grant to museums is the only contribution to the arts and sciences, to the things of beauty and the things of the spirit, which are supported by governmental funds. One of the Votes put down for today is Class IV, Vote 10, "Grants for Science and the Arts," and hon. Members will see that there a wide variety of activities outside the museums and galleries which are supported from public funds.

Indeed, one can go further. Much of the money found for the University Grants Committee goes for research. Much of the expenditure of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education goes to things of the mind and the spirit. Therefore, when hon. Members seek to argue that, because of the admitted value of these museums and galleries, they must be given a special exemption from the limitations which are imposed upon other things of the mind and the spirit, I am bound to say that they seem to be putting quite a good case rather too high. It is a fact that one cannot isolate these matters and say, "These museums and galleries are the only contribution that the State makes to the arts and sciences and therefore they must be sacrosanct from cuts." One is bound to look at them against the background of the very great contributions that—under all Governments—the British Government make to support the arts and sciences.

It is also true that those who are directly concerned on the highest level have not asked specifically for such special exemption. As the Committee probably know, in this matter we have direct contact with the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries, whose Chairman is Lord Harlech. These questions have been discussed with the Standing Commission and I am authorised to say that, while they are far from happy about the original cuts, they have no objection to the Committee being told that the Chairman said that he fully appreciated the Chancellor's difficulties in our present economic circumstances and was grateful both for his understanding of their difficulties and for the decision that, notwithstanding present difficulties, authority was being given for additional staff of 19 to enable Apsley House to be opened in the immediate future.

Certainly there is no foundation for the extreme attitude adopted by certain hon. Members today that, because of their peculiar character no limitation should be applied to these institutions at all.

Mr. Bevan

Is this a statement by the Chairman, or was he speaking on behalf of the Commission as a whole?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I have read the words with some care because I do not wish to misrepresent what was said by a noble Lord who is not here. The Chairman of the Standing Commission said that he had fully appreciated what had been done, and I think that all hon. Members, regardless of party, would feel nothing but the highest admiration for the noble Lord.

Mr. Wyatt

He is a Tory.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

That is why he is a cultured man.

From all that has been said in regard to the effect of these closures upon the tourist trade and foreigners visiting this country, one would have thought that all museums in all foreign countries were open all the time. In point of fact, the foreigner coming to London even now is much more likely to be surprised at the frequency of opening of our museums than anything else. If the hon. Member for Aston were to attempt to visit the Louvre on a Tuesday, he would find that he could not enter that superb gallery at any time of the day. The same is true of some other days of the week, and I understand that that applies to all the other Paris museums.

Nobody regards the French people as other than highly civilised and appreciative of artistic things, but it is the case that the current edition of Baedeker warns the tourist that even during the advertised hours of opening of the Louvre and other museums it may be that certain rooms will be found to be shut, owing to staff shortage. Even in Florence which, I suppose, has the finest collection of pictures in the world, one has been disappointed to find galleries which were not open at a particular time. Therefore, I think it is a little disproportionate to suggest that foreigners would be horrified to find in London a state of affairs conspicuously better than is to be found in their own capitals.

I come now to my second point—whether it is an automatic, inevitable and necessary consequence of the action which we have been discussing that access should be restricted to the extent it has been. Let us get clear what has happened. The two places which have been absolutely closed are the Water-colour Room at the Tate Gallery and the museum of the Public Record Office. In the case of the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the National Maritime Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, there has been closing of certain rooms on certain days. There has been no change at all at other institutions, such as the London Museum, the National Gallery, the National Gallery of Scotland, the National Library of Scotland, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Scottish Museum. In the case of the Imperial War Museum, further gallery space has been opened since October.

In addition, as the Committee know, provision has been made and an increase in manpower authorised for the opening during the present week of the museum of Apsley House, with a staff of 19. It is clear from the figures that different institutions have adopted different policies where staff reductions have been effected.

Here I come to the point made by the hon. Member for Aston. It is far from saying that anyone is incompetent to point out that they have an option as to which policy to apply. One can agree or disagree with what somebody does, but the fact that one disagrees does not in any sense indicate that one believes there is incompetence. At least those of us who have perhaps not quite the intellectual self-confidence of the hon. Member for Aston are quite prepared to believe that intelligent people can differ from us, and I should not like what I said—that with extra thought it would be possible by certain adjustments to limit the effect of these closures—to be taken as a reflection on the actions of the eminent people who conduct the affairs of these museums.

Mr. Wyatt

What the hon. Gentleman said about the Public Record Office was: Even then it has a staff of 154 compared with 127 before the war. Those figures speak for themselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1952; Vol. 502, c. 2410.] He implied that there was no need to close this museum—as he did in the case of other museums. It may interest him to know that the directors and keepers of these establishments took his point in the same way as I did.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am glad to hear of the contact he now discloses with the directors and keepers. The hon. Gentleman did not see fit to disclose this during the course of his previous speeches.

Mr. Wyatt


Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I can probably save the hon. Member from intervening. I said that I was interested that he had not mentioned it before. I am not criticising him for having sought knowledge where he could find it.

Mr. Wyatt

On a point of order. This is rather an important point. The Keeper of the Public Record Office is an official and I have had no contact with him in the matter but other directors and keepers are persons who are directly entitled to speak to anybody they like.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I doubt whether that is a point of order. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to appreciate that the matter is—as I said the other night—one within the control of these gentlemen, to consider how to apply the admittedly limited resources that they had. To my mind no reasonable person would assume that my comments indicated any disregard for the policies of the people concerned. They are free to decide whether the reduction should take effect in respect of all their staff—which may involve the closing of galleries—or on staff engaged on other duties, such as cataloguing. If they feel that the reduction should fall on their wardens, it is equally open to them to decide whether or not it is possible, by reorganising their staff, to secure those reductions without a reduction in the space open to the public.

Both the National Gallery and the London Museum have reduced their warden staff by two and they have maintained the same amount of gallery space open to the public. The Imperial War Museum, which had a cut of one, increased its gallery space by 1,600 square feet. Another aspect which might interest the Committee is that in October, 1951, with 18 more wardens in posts, there were 277,000 square feet of gallery space less open to the public than in 1939, that is to say, one-sixth less. Last month, with eight fewer wardens in posts, there were 384,000 square feet less than in 1939. In 1939 one warden covered 2,350 square feet. He now covers 1,840 square feet. The hours of work for this grade are the same.

I quote those figures to show that it is perhaps not quite such a plain and straightforward matter as might have been thought from one or two of the speeches which we have heard and that, in fact, the organisation of these galleries is a complex and difficult matter upon which it is easy to jump to erroneous conclusions either way. I will say at once that I concede a great deal of what the right hon. Member for South Shields said about the increased burden upon some of these institutions in recent years. It is perfectly true, for example, that the British Museum has to cope with the never-ceasing flow of books and with a certain number of additional works of art.

The extreme example is undoubtedly the Public Record Office, which has to cope with the vast increase in paper which seems to flow from modern methods of government and which has also taken over, in its dump at Hayes, which I think has the attractive name of "Limbo," categories of documents which, previous to the war, were not thought to be in the Public Record Office phase of life at all. It is perfectly true, and it is fair that it should be brought out, that the responsibilities of some of these institutions are greater than before the war, and the Public Record Office is a particular case in point. It was no doubt for that reason that its establishment was raised to the figure of 177 a little time ago.

I have this suggestion to put to the Committee. When we asked for these manpower economies, we hoped that they could be made without seriously affecting the service given to the general public. We still hope that this may be so. We still hope that there may be ways and means of achieving these economies without depriving the public of facilities, and there is one particular way in which we can help. The Treasury has an expert division —the Organisation and Methods Division —which I think I am entitled to say holds a very high reputation for its experience of modern staffing methods and administration, even outside the bounds of the public service. It has certainly received tributes from hon. Members and from other experts outside the House.

I am authorised to say that we should be happy to put the experience and advice of the Organisation and Methods Division at the service of any of the authorities concerned. We believe that in this way it may prove possible to achieve the savings concerned without detriment to public facilities. Its services are available to any of the organisations which we have been discussing, and, in fact, the Public Record Office have already been in touch with the division, and discussions are taking place to see whether the division can help the Public Record Office in their staffing problem.

We will make this service available to any of the museums and galleries to which reference has been made. It is terribly easy both to assert and to deny that certain adjustments to staff numbers make the closure of a gallery inevitable. It is easy to be dogmatic either way, but it is surely not beyond the bounds of possibility that detailed discussion on the spot between those directly concerned with running the institutions and those who have a very high reputation for their knowledge of modern staffing problems may reveal some ways of making less drastic adjustments.

I may say that members of the Organisation and Methods Division have in recent years been in touch with most of the galleries concerned so that their general systems are not unfamiliar ground to the division. I think hon. Members will agree that, as a means of resolving the unfortunate difficulties which have arisen, the first and most proper step is a detailed discussion between the museum authorities and the experts of the Treasury so as to resolve, aye or no, whether cuts of this order can be sustained without serious impact either on the museums' other activities or on the facilities open to the public.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

Is the hon. Gentleman, as the responsible Minister, now criticising the efficiency of those who run these institutions, or is he not?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, who has knowledge of the Organisation and Methods Division of the Treasury, should say that. He knows perfectly well that innumerable organisations have thought it proper to ask the division to help them with advice on their staffing problems. None of those organisations did so because it was, or thought it was, inefficient; they did so because in this imperfect world we can all perfect ourselves even further—even the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay).

It cuts at the root of the good work which the Organisation and Methods Division does, on a far wider scale than this, to suggest that calling them in and having discussions indicates any admission or assertion by anybody that the people with whom they are discussing the matter are inefficient. It means only this —that those concerned feel that it is possible that they might profit from expert advice.

I would say this in all sincerity to the Committee. We get no further by saying "Aye" or "no"; "They cannot carry these cuts without closing the galleries," or "They can carry these cuts without closing the galleries." We get no further by doing that. It is a matter which can be resolved only by detailed and expert investigation freely and willingly undertaken on the spot. That is surely the practical approach. I should hate it to be thought that any of the innumberable Departments of State and others which the Organisation and Methods Division have investigated during the last few years either thought they were inefficient or, in fact, were inefficient; and it would be terribly damaging to the good work which this body does to allow such a suggestion as that to go about.

Mr. Jay

Of course, I am not questioning the wisdom of the Organisation and Methods Division looking into this problem. What I am questioning is the propriety of the hon. Gentleman, as the responsible Minister, criticising in public the efficiency of these Departments. If he is not making such criticism of these Departments will he now clearly say that he withdraws?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I must try again with the right hon. Gentleman. I have not said today, nor on any occasion, that these Departments are inefficient. I have said that they had difficult problems to solve, and I have indicated that on certain aspects of their solution I personally took a somewhat different view. But even the right hon. Member for Battersea, North cannot twist that into a suggestion that I think they are incompetent, and I say here and now that I have no such belief, that in fact it is not so and that it has never been said to be so from this Bench; and that, as far as I know, it has never been suggested by anybody except the right hon. Gentleman.

I am coming to perhaps an important point which follows logically from what I have just said. If, after these discussions have taken place, in the case of any particular institution, between its authorities and the O. and M. Division of the Treasury, it is established as a matter of fact that, on the staff figures as at present authorised, an appreciable reduction of facilities to the public is unavoidable, my right hon. Friend will be prepared to reconsider the position as to the numbers revealed as a result of that discussion.

It has been a source of great regret to the Government that the public should be deprived of certain facilities. Every effort must be made—and the course I have indicated we are taking is one of such efforts —to see whether any readjustment can be made to improve the position, and if, after those efforts have been made, it really appears that in any particular case closure on the present figures is unavoidable, my right hon. Friend, as I have said, will look at the figures et that particular institution again. I hope that that will make it clear to the Committee that we feel as strongly as any hon. Member that it is desirable, if it is at all possible, to retain the splendid museum facilities of this English capital—

Hon. Members

British capital.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

What about the Scottish capital?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

—the museum facilities, I am reminded, with which we are also concerned, of Edinburgh and of Wales. We feel just as strongly as any hon. Member that it is highly desirable that as many should be kept open as is reasonably practicable in the very difficult circumstances of this time. We have, as I have said, applied limitations to the increases in these as we have applied them to many admirable institutions throughout the realm, but, in view of the circumstances, in view also of the fact that Coronation year will be next year, we are anxious that facilities should not be restricted if that can be avoided. Therefore, the course we propse to the Committee is this—detailed examination and consideration on the spot, institution by institution; and if it can really be shown that closure is on the present figures un-

avoidable, then, as I have said, my right hon. Friend will reconsider those figures.

Hon. Members


Mr. Ede

It is quite clear from the closing half-hour of the hon. Gentleman's speech, while the Whips have been at work on the telephone, that really what he has announced now ought to have been done six months ago, and, therefore, I beg to move, That Item Class 1, Vote 4, Subhead A.1 (Salaries &c.) be reduced by £5.

Question put.

The Committee divided: Ayes, 177; Noes, 220.

Division No. 207.] AYES [7.24 p.m.
Acland, Sir Richard Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Paton, J.
Albu, A. H. Grey, C. F. Pearson, A.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Peart, T. F.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Poole, C. C.
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Grimond, J. Popplewell, E.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Porter, G.
Awbery, S. S. Hall, John (Gateshead, W.) Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)
Bacon, Miss Alice Hamilton, W. W. Proctor, W. T.
Balfour, A. Hargreaves, A. Rankin, John
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.) Reeves, J.
Bence, C. R. Hastings, S. Reid, Thomas (Swindon)
Benson, G. Hayman, F. H. Rhodes, H.
Beswick, F. Hewitson, Capt. M. Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Holman, P. Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Bing, G. H. C. Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Blackburn, F. Houghton, Douglas Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Blenkinsop, A. Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Blyton, W. R. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Schofield, S. (Barnsley)
Board man, H. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Shackleton, E. A. A.
Brockway, A. F. Irving, A. J. (Edge Hill) Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Short, E. W.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.) Slater, J.
Burton, Miss F. E. Johnson, James (Rugby) Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Jones, David (Hartlepool) Snow, J. W.
Callaghan, L. J. Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Sorensen, R. W.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Sparks, J. A.
Champion, A. J. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Chapman, W. D. King, Dr. H. M. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Chetwynd, G. R. Kinley, J. Stress, Dr. Barnett
Clunie, J. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Cocks, F. S. Lewis, Arthur Swingler, S. T.
Coldrick, W. Lindgren, G. S. Sylvester, G. O.
Collick, P. H. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Logan, D. G. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Cove, W. G. MacColl, J. E. Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) McGhee, H. G. Thorneyoroft, Harry (Clayton)
Crosland, C. A. R. McKay, John (Wallsend) Tomney, F.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. McLeavy, F. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Viant, S. P.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Mainwaring, W. H. Wallace, H. W.
Deer, G. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Weitzman, D.
Delargy, H. J. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Dodds, N. N. Manuel, A. C. Wells, William (Walsall)
Driberg, T. E. N. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. West, D. G.
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich) Mellish, R. J. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Mitchison, G. R. Wigg, George
Edelman, M. Moody, A. S. Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N.)
Edwards, John (Brighouse) Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. Williams, Rev. Llewlyn (Abertillery)
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Field, W. J. Moyle, A. Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)
Fienburgh. W. Murray, J. D. Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.) Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Foot, M. M. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Freeman, John (Watford) Oldfield, W. H. Wyatt, W. L.
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Padley, W. E. Yates, V. F.
Gibson, C. W. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Glanville, James Pargiter, G. A. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale) Parker, J. Mr. Wilkins and Mr. Royle.
Aitken, W. T. Gough, C. F. H. Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Gower, H. R. Partridge, E.
Alport, C. J. M. Gridley, Sir Arnold Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Arbuthnot, John Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Perkins, W. R. D.
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Hare, Hon. J. H. Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) Peyton, J. W. W.
Astor, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton) Harris, Reader (Heston) Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Bucks, Wycombe) Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Baker, P. A. D. Harvie-Wall, Sir George Pitman, I. J.
Baldock, Ll.-Cmdr. J. M. Hay, John Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Banks, Col. C. Heald, Sir Lionel Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Barber, Anthony Heath, Edward Profumo, J. D.
Beach, Maj. Hicks Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Raikes, H. V.
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Rayner, Brig. R.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Holland-Martin, C. J. Remnant, Hon. P.
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.) Hollis, M. C. Roberts, Peter (Heeley)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Hope, Lord John Robertson, Sir David
Birch, Nigel Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Bishop, F. P. Horobin, I. M. Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Black, C. W. Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon, Florence Roper, Sir Harold
Boothby, R. J. G. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Bossom, A. C. Howard, Greville (St. Ives) Russell, R. S.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.) Ryder, Capt. R. E. O.
Braine, B. R. Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M. Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas
Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.) Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Kaberry, D. Scott, R. Donald
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge) Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Brooman-White, R. C. Lambert, Hon. G. Shepherd, William
Browne, Jack (Govan) Lambton, Viscount Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Buliard, D. G. Langford-Holt, J. A. Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)
Bullock, Capt. M. Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Soames, Capt. C.
Burden, F. F. A. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Spearman, A. C. M.
Butcher, H. W. Legh, P. R. (Petersfield) Speir, R. M.
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Linstead, H. N. Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)
Gary, Sir Robert Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Channon, H. Lookwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. Stevens, G. P.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S. Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Storey, S.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Cole, Norman McAdden, S. J. Studholme, H. G.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S. Summers, G. S.
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Sutcliffe, H.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Cranborne, Viscount Maclean, Fitzroy Teeling, W.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.) Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Crouch, R. F. Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Hornoastle) Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Manningham-Butler, Sir R. E. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip-Northwood) Marlowe, A. A. H. Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Cuthbert, W. N. Marples, A. E. Tilney, John
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin) Touche, Sir Gordon
Davidson, Viscountess Maude, Angus Turner, H. F. L.
Deedes, W. F. Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Turton, R. H.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Medlicott, Brig. F. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Mellor, Sir John Vosper, D. F.
Conner, P. W. Molson, A. H. E. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Doughty, C. J. A. Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Waller Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)
Drayson, G. B. Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas Walker-Smith, D. C.
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond) Morrison, John (Salisbury) Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Molt-Radclyffe, C. E. Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Erroll, F. J. Nabarro, G. D. N. Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Finlay, Graeme Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Watkinson, H. A.
Fisher, Nigel Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.) Wellwood, W.
Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P. White, Baker (Canterbury)
Fletcher-Cooke, C. Nugent, G. R. H. Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Fort, R. Nutting, Anthony Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Oakshott, H. D. Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale) Odey, G. W. Wills, G.
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok) O'Neill, Rt. Won. Sir H. (Antrim, N.) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Wood, Hon. R.
Garner-Evans, E. H. Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Godber, J. B. Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Drewe and Mr. Redmayne.
Original Question again proposed.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn