HC Deb 17 March 1953 vol 512 cc2038-40
3. Dr. Stross

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total amount of money which is available annually to the National Art Galleries and museums for the purchase of works of art; and what was the amount in 1938.

Mr. R. A. Butler

The purchase grants this year total £67,000 as compared with £59,000 in 1938. The total proposed for 1953–54 is £84,000.

Dr. Stross

Will the Chancellor bear in mind that it is the activities of each and every Chancellor for a long time that have restricted private patronage, and that, therefore, as he must agree, the State should take a greater part, as time goes by, in fostering the arts? Bearing this in mind, will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that these sums will continually increase in order that we may get the very best possible advantage from these collections?

Mr. Butler

The hon. Member may find at least some satisfaction in the fact that a considerable increase is announced in my statement. As regards the future, we hope for the best.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

May I ask my right hon. Friend to assure the House that any increases will not be devoted to replacing "Unknown Political Prisoner"?

4. Dr. Stross

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether all those sections of the national galleries and museums which were closed following the economies asked for in 1952, are now open again to the public; and what approaches have been made to him by the trustees of these institutions for additional expenditure so that they could remain open for longer hours.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Six institutions closed sections or restricted public access to them. At the Wallace Collection, the Tate Gallery, the National Maritime Museum and Ham House all the public rooms are now open. At the British Museum and the Public Record Office arrangements are now being made for access to the exhibitions which were closed.

As regards hours of opening, I would refer to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Sir D. Savory) on 18th February about the British Museum Reading Room. I have had no proposals for additional expenditure to permit longer opening elsewhere; but, that may be because the authorities of these institutions realise that it would be difficult for me to approve such an increase in addition to the other increases which are expected in 1953–54.

Dr. Stross

Whilst thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, may I ask whether he has noted that the Tate Gallery is open for longer hours for the present special exhibition of Mexican art, and that the exhibition has been well patronised? Would he not recognise that it is desirable that when these special shows are arranged the hours of opening of galleries and museums should be extended until at least nine o'clock?

Mr. Butler

I will examine any such suggestion. I think it might be noted that Osterley House has been open to the public this summer, and additional exhibitions are to be opened at the National Maritime Museum, the London Museum and the National Gallery, so there is a general feeling about opening.

Sir Edward Keeling

Does my right hon. Friend's reply mean that the rooms which are at present closed every other day at the British Museum are to be open every day?

Mr. Butler

No. I must refer my hon. Friend to the answer previously given about the British Museum.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Can the Chancellor give an assurance that the Public Record Office Museum and those parts of the other museums which are now closed will be open to the public before the Coronation, as these would provide an additional amenity to our visitors?

Mr. Butler

I have said with regard to the Public Record Office that arrangements are being made to provide access to the exhibition which was closed.

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