§ 11.12 a.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 13, at the end, to insert:save for such of the pictures bequeathed by the late Sir Hugh Lane as are now in the possession or control of the Tate Gallery Trustees, which, with those now in the possession or control of the National Gallery Trustees, shall be handed over to the National Gallery of Ireland.This Amendment deals with the Clause which directs the legal ownership of certain pictures in certain directions, and it seeks to alter that direction. The facts of the case, which I shall hope to argue very shortly, are probably very well known to most people in this Committee, but just in case there should be some hon. 734 Members who are not familiar with the the details, perhaps it would not be inappropriate for me to recount them again.
Forty years ago, an Irishman, who was not undistinguished in the world of art, made a will in which he left 39 continental pictures to the National Gallery. Shortly afterwards, being about to set out on a then hazardous journey to the United States of America in the middle of the First World War, he made a codicil in which he purported to leave these same pictures not to the National Gallery any more but to a Dublin art gallery. He set out upon his journey, having in the few days before leaving made it perfectly plain that his real intention was to leave these pictures to the Dublin gallery. Unfortunately, on his way back from the United States, he went down in the "Lusitania."
But for one unfortunate fact, no one would ever have questioned where he intended these pictures to go, nor would anyone have doubted that the legal right to these pictures was with the Dublin gallery mentioned in the codicil; but, unfortunately, he did not have that codicil witnessed. It was written in his own hand with great care, it was carefully fastened in an envelope, which was placed in a drawer of his desk in the gallery in Dublin of which he was one of the directors, and it was addressed to his sister, who was his confidante in all matter of personal business. That was a very strong reason for supposing that what this gentleman really intended should be done was what was stated as his last wish in the codicil.
Of course, the codicil had no legal effect, not having been witnessed, so the pictures have remained with the National Gallery, by which they were held on loan before the will bequeathed them to the National Gallery trustees. They were, in fact, in the Tate Gallery, although the National Gallery trustees have the legal ownership of them.
Nobody questions that, according to law, these pictures are rightly in the possession and ownership of the trustees in London, but some people argue very seriously that, upon moral grounds, the possession and ownership of these pictures should be in the Dublin gallery, to which city, according to the codicil of the testator, they should and would 735 have gone had the full formalities been complied with and the codicil been witnessed.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Test)
Can my hon. and learned Friend say whether the fact that the codicil is in the handwriting of the deceased has ever been questioned?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
Never. None of the facts I have so far mentioned has, as far as I am aware, ever been questioned. So far as I know, nobody suggests that the trustees, who have the legal ownership and possession of the pictures, are in any way wrong in having refused to hand them over. It is not for them to hand them over, because they are bequeathed to them, and that would not be in accordance with their trust; but my submission to this Committee is that, although the trustees would be quite wrong to give effect to what they may believe to be the true intention of the testator expressed in the codicil, that does not apply to this House of Commons, which is or should be the expression of the conscience of the nation.
What I would urge most strongly is that here in Committee we have to try to express the conscience of our people, and some of us argue very strongly that the testator, having quite manifestly intended at the time when he made the codicil—and here I am on completely uncontroversial ground—that these pictures should go to Dublin, we should now give effect to that intention.
This is by no means a new story. Indeed, this matter has been before the House on many occasions before, and I am well aware that one has every appearance of trying to flog a dead horse in bringing it up again. I would mention that my main object in putting it to the Committee again is to recall that a committee was set up, consisting of Members of all parties in this House, and reported in 1926. The committee reported by a majority—one Member had some qualifications—that it was the fact that when Sir Hugh Lane made the codicil he thought that it was a legal disposition of the pictures; in other words, he did not think that the codicil had to be witnessed. He thought that he had done everything which he had to do to ensure that these pictures should go to Dublin.
§ Mr. Williams
If he knew that the will had to be witnessed, he should have known how to witness the codicil.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
Prima facie, I concede that point, but, without going into too long a story, I feel there is a good deal of evidence, taken at one time or another——
§ Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Hyde (Belfast, North)
With regard to the interjection just made by my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams), I think it is right to point out that, when the will was drawn up by Sir Hugh Lane and he did not propose to sign it in the presence of witnesses, it was only the presence of his sister, who pointed out the necessity for witnesses, that caused him to obtain the witnesses to his signature. He was very careless about this sort of thing.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
I was coming to that very point.
As the hon. Member stated, it is true that he made this mistake originally. His sister subsequently stated in evidence that it was just the sort of idiotic thing that he would do in his own private business affairs and that although he had been told of the necessity for having the original will witnessed, it was just like him to believe that because that original will had been signed and properly witnessed the codicil was, therefore, legal without being witnessed. That was the evidence given by the person who knew him best.
In my submission, the evidence given by the sister and others shows that the failure to have the codicil witnessed is not a substantial argument against the general view that he intended what he wrote in it. The fact that he had made a mistake once did not mean, according to those who knew him best, that he would learn the lesson and know what he should do on the next occasion. Anyhow, the committee reported that he did intend these pictures to go to Dublin when he made the codicil. There was a 737 dispute as to whether he would have intended them to go there subsequently, but there was no dispute about his intention at the time of making the codicil.
The major obstacle to my argument is that the committee, having found that fact, proceded to say that it could not advise the Government of the day to alter the situation by legislation. It did so because, having looked into all the evidence of the supposed intentions of Sir Hugh Lane over a period of years, it came to the conclusion that in the circumstances which obtained in 1926 he would not have wished the pictures to go to Dublin.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Is it not an established fact that the last expressed intention of Sir Hugh Lane was that these pictures should go to Dublin, which is the intention expressed in the codicil?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
Yes, I have already made that plain. In the two days previous to his setting out for America he left no doubt, at any rate in the mind of one person, that he intended the pictures to go back to Dublin.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
That is so. And there was Freeman-Smith, with whom Lane travelled just before sailing. Anyhow, the committee found against me on the main point, so it is that to which I wish to address my remarks this morning. It found against the proposal to send the pictures back, and it did so on two main grounds.
The first was that it is an extremely difficult thing to reconstruct the mind of a man long since dead. We can all sympathise with the Committee in that difficulty, but it then proceeded to attempt to do that very thing. It examined alleged expressions of opinion on the part of Sir Hugh Lane, made over a period of two years before his death, and said that, having regard to these informally expressed opinions, it did not think that at the time of making their report he 738 would have wished the pictures to go to Dublin.
I submit that it is a fault upon the very face of the report that the committee should first have complained so bitterly of the near impossibility of reconstructing the mind of a man long since dead and then have gone on to base its findings upon a finding arrived at in the face of just that very difficulty. In my submission, that is a patent absurdity. The committee further says:No case has been brought to our notice, nor have our own enquiries revealed an example, in which a legal defect in a will or codicil has been removed by public Act of Parliament in the public interest in order to gave effect to what is alleged to have been the true intention of the testator.That is also a manifest absurdity.
Wills have been altered by Act of Parliament again and again. The will of the artist Turner was completely altered by Act of Parliament. The will of Rhodes was altered and, subsequent to the publication of the report of this committee, the late Lord Iveagh's will was altered. He intended to leave pictures to the nation and wanted them housed at Ken Wood but, unfortunately, like Sir Hugh Lane, his fellow Irishman, he did not obtain a witness for the codicil, which consisted of a list of pictures which he intended to be housed at Ken Wood. On that occasion, Parliament found no difficulty whatever in legalising that schedule of pictures, although it had not been properly witnessed.
When it is a question of pictures coming into the national bosom it seems that we are not too hesitant about legalising the position; and I think we ought not to be hesitant when it is a matter of pictures going out. Indeed, we should be all the more hesitant about attempting to frustrate the formally expressed last wishes of a testator if, by doing so, we stand to benefit. To me, this is a plain question of conscience. I am not suggesting that anyone who does not agree with me on this point has no conscience; far from it. There are opinions about matters of conscience, and to me, my hon. Friends and, I hope, the committee, this is purely a matter of conscience.
Augustine Birrell, writing in the "Nation and Athenaeum" a long time ago, when this controversy first came out into the open, said that if a testator had left a diamond ring to a friend in England 739 and had subsequently, by a codicil which happened to be unwitnessed, said that he wished a friend in Ireland to have that ring, what would be the conduct of the friend in England? Would he hang on to the ring or give it to the friend in Ireland? If he did hang on to the ring would his conduct be that of a gentleman or a cad? I do not think that the matter can be put better or more simply.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
It would be more apposite to the question of a ring if the friend in England were not a "he" but a "she."
§ Mr. Mallalieu
I thought that myself, but decided that it was best to keep to the original question form of the author. Augustine Birrell was thinking of gentlemen wearing diamond rings which, in the old days, were seen flashing on their hands.
This is a simple matter of conscience. Are we to do the right thing even though no one here can derive the slightest benefit and the Government certainly can win no immediate electoral credit? I ask the Committee to consider the matter very carefully. It is one of those small things which can exacerbate feelings between this country and our sister across the water. It is a small irritation which we can remove, and, above all, by doing so we can set our own consciences free.
Lieut.-Colonel Hyde. I think it would be convenient if, in discussing this Amendment, we considered also the hon. and gallant Member's Amendment to the First Schedule, in page 5, line 8, at the end, to insert:The National Gallery of Ireland.
§ 11.30 a.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Hyde (Belfast, North)
I am greatly obliged, Sir Rhys.
I should like to reinforce very briefly the plea that has been advanced so lucidly by the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) for the return of the Lane pictures to Dublin, which many people feel is their rightful home. The hon. and learned Member set out the case very clearly, and I wish only to supplement it by a very few details.
It is important to remember that the pictures were originally exhibited in Dublin. They were lent by Sir Hugh 740 Lane for exhibition in Dublin in the gallery in which he was interested. Because of difficulties over accommodation he lent the pictures to the National Gallery in London, and then, because of either the reluctance or the dilatoriness of the Dublin authorities in providing suitable accommodation for the pictures, he made the will in 1913 of which we have heard. In the two years that followed he changed his mind, and, as we have heard, on the eve of his ill-fated voyage he drew up the codicil leaving the pictures back to Dublin—the codicil which was unattested.
This matter was considered by a Select Committee of the House in 1926. That Committee brought in a Report which in some ways was an unsatisfactory compromise because in the first of its recommendations it found that Lane did intend to make the disposition which appeared in the codicil. I would quote the relevant passage from the Report because it reinforces this point. Paragraph 6 of the Report of the Committee, appointed to consider certain questions relating to the 39 pictures bequeathed under the will of the late Sir Hugh Lane, and published by the Stationery Office in June, 1926, says:The unusual care with which Lane drew up the codicil, and the precautions he took to ensure its falling into the right hands in the event of his decease, leave little room for doubt that it was no mere draft or memorandum for his awn use, but a document to which at the time of signature he attached the greatest importance. The fact that he appears to have mentioned its existence to no one disposes of the conjecture that his object in drawing it up was merely to satisfy the wishes of his Irish friends and relatives.This last sentence is not strictly accurate. He mentioned it to Lady Gregory who was a relative, his aunt, and also to Sir Alec Martin, who, on the face of it, would be more interested in the pictures being retained in London. We have the evidence of Sir Alec Martin, who is still alive, on that point. The paragraph continues:His omission to secure witnesses to his signature is in no way inconsistent with the general impression which we have formed of his mental habits and temperament; and in this connection we would draw attention to the statement made to us by his sister that, although on the occasion of his making an earlier will she had explained the need for witnesses, he had proposed to sign the will of the 3rd October, 1913 (which she had written out for him), without witnesses, and had again to be reminded of the necessity.741 The next paragraph, paragraph 7, of the Report, says:In the absence of any conceivable alternative purpose for which Lane might have intended the document to which he attached such importance, we are led to the conclusion that at the time of signature he thought he was making a legal disposition, which should take effect in the event of his not returning alive from the dangerous voyage which he had immediately in contemplation.If that was his intention, why should not effect be given to it even at this comparatively late period? It may be felt that it would be inappropriate to alter by legislation a will that has been wrongly drawn up, but the hon. and learned Member for Brigg has very clearly shown that there have been many occasions on which wills have been altered in this way.
This is not a matter of party politics at all. It is a matter on which Unionists and Nationalists in Ireland were agreed. The late Lord Carson was a protagonist in the case for the return of the pictures to Ireland, and exerted himself to secure the return of these pictures, and the late Mr. John Redmond also worked in the same direction. This is something which, as the hon. and learned Member has said, is a matter of conscience. Here is an opportunity afforded by this Bill for providing for the return of these pictures to what Lord Carson called their rightful home, "as a valuable memorial to a great Irishman."
If that cannot be agreed to in the form the hon. and learned Gentleman has proposed by his Amendment, then I submit that my Amendment to the Schedule should be accepted, which would authorise the Tate Gallery trustees to transfer the pictures either outright or on loan to the appropriate authority in Dublin. That may not be, perhaps, such a drastic method of dealing with the matter as that which the hon. and learned Member has proposed, and for that reason I would commend it to my hon. Friend and to the Committee.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I intervene for a few minutes only to submit certain facts that so far have not been put to the Committee. It would appear from what has been said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) and by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Belfast, North (Lieut.-Colonel Hyde) that this country has very unjustly, in the face of all the evidence 742 and purely on a technical point, kept these pictures from going to Eire.
That really is not in accordance with the facts. I remember when this matter was discussed in the House a few years ago. It emerged then, in my view, at any rate, quite clearly, that the matter is not quite as simple as we have this morning —though I am not complaining about it—been led to suppose.
Sir Hugh Lane was rather eccentric. There seems to be little doubt about that. Although he was a good business man, and although he had, as we have heard this morning been warned that a codicil to be valid must be witnessed and had had the fact underlined for him when he made his will, he did not have the codicil witnessed. The date was 1915, during the First World War; he knew he was going to make a voyage to America and that submarines were very active.
It therefore seems to me strange that he did not then, if his mind was entirely made up, see to it that the codicil was witnessed. He did not do so. Having been warned over his will, it seems hard to believe he could have forgotten this when he made the codicil. The surrounding circumstances leading up to his last voyage do not make it at all plain that, even having made the codicil he was at that moment definitely, finally and irrevocably decided to leave these pictures to Dublin.
He had changed his mind several times before. As the hon. and gallant Member for Belfast, North has reminded us, the pictures were for a time in Dublin, then, because the Irish did not provide a gallery which he thought fitting, he brought them over here and eventually gave them to the National Gallery. But, even then, because in his view the trustees did not give proper wall-space to them, he got annoyed. When he went off on his final voyage to the United States, it is obvious that his mind was again in a state of flux. He had been seen by Mr. McColl and Lord Curzon, and both gave evidence be-before the Committee set up later in1923——
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Is my right hon. Friend's argument that Sir Hugh Lane wrote this codicil in his own hand, signed it in two or three places and did not, in fact, mean it to be a gift to the people?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I have not committed myself to an assertion of that kind, I am willing to admit he did write it out and signed his name in more than one place. What I am pointing out—in order that this country should not be accused of being unjust and flying in the face of the evidence is that there is another side to this matter. I am anxious that in this discussion we should take a balanced view and not consider simply only one side.
The facts are that Mr. McColl saw Sir Hugh Lane just before Sir Hugh sailed and informed Sir Hugh of the fact that he was then negotiating with Sir Joseph Duveen to provide a gallery for these pictures. It seems strange that Sir Hugh went to America knowing these negotiations were practically completed and that a gallery would be provided to house his pictures without letting Mr. McColl know that there was no point in going on with the negotiations or arranging to erect a gallery because he had made up his mind definitely to leave the pictures to Dublin.
We cannot now enter the mind of a man long since dead, or for that matter, the mind of a man still living. But it does seem that Sir Hugh Lane was playing off Dublin and London one against the other. He was anxious—I do not blame him—that his pictures should be shown, and at that moment, so far as one can tell from the evidence, he had not made up his mind irrevocably as to which city these pictures should go.
Having said that, and having thus tried to put the other side of the case, let me add that at that time in the early 1920's an attempt was made to solve this difficulty to satisfy all concerned. It was then suggested that perhaps half the pictures might be given to Dublin and half left in London or, alternatively, all shown in Dublin for a period and then brought here. But Mr. Cosgrave turned down that suggestion. The Irish Government would have nothing to do with either suggestion. I hope, however, that the Government will reconsider the possibility that, after the Bill is through, an approach might again be made to the authorities in Eire to see whether at long last we cannot came to terms.
The great difficulty is that if these pictures had not gone to the National Gallery the National Gallery Trustees would have bought other pictures in their place. If all these pictures leave this 744 country, it means that there will be a big gap in the National Gallery of the 19th Century French School, and that would be unfair to students and picture lovers here as well as to the Trustees of the Gallery who, down the years, have been trying to build up a comprehensive collection. Therefore, it would be well if the Government would consider approaching the Government of Eire once again to see whether some compromise is not possible; after all, we are grown-up, sensible people, and we do not want to rob anybody of their rights. It surely should be possible, with 39 of them, for some sort of arrangement to be come to so that both countries can be satisfied and those who want to see the pictures in the course of time see them.
§ 11.45 a.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu
The right hon. Gentleman was mentioning that because Sir Joseph Duveen was about to provide a gallery in which to house the pictures, Lane would, at the time of his death, have wished to leave the pictures in Dublin. Sir Hugh Lane was on the worst of terms with Sir Joseph Duveen. If there was one thing more than another which would have made Sir Hugh Lane send his pictures away from London, it was the thought that it meant that they would be housed in Duveen's Gallery. Even if the suggestion had been put to Sir Hugh there is no real evidence on that point, as the pictures are not now housed in that place but were taken away to the gallery. So I submit this is irrelevant to the main point.
§ Mr. Christopher Hollis (Devizes)
Without being patronising, I think the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) gave an extremely fair account of this very difficult controversy. I approach it from the point of view of what is artistically desirable and not in a national or political spirit that should not really enter into it. On balance, it seems to me to begin with that the purpose which Sir Hugh Lane had in mind in this codicil, or at least the purpose expressed in the codicil, was a highly desirable purpose, that of establishing a national home for art in Dublin. From the purely objective artistic point of view, the majority of these pictures can serve a better purpose in Dublin than they can in London. We can more easily spare 745 them from London than we can from Dublin.
But I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it does not necessarily follow from that that every single one of the pictures should go. We have a very good case, that, as a result of the bequest, we have refrained from buying other pictures we might have bought. But, in general, the pictures could be displayed today to much better advantage in Dublin than here in England where no very good use is made of them. The galleries have no space to display all of them. There is difficulty in seeing some of them, and one has to get special leave to go underground to look at them. From the artistic point of view, they will be better displayed and serve a more useful educative purpose in Dublin than in London, as far as the majority is concerned.
Then, of course, it would be open to hon. Members to say it may be desirable that Dublin should have a good picture gallery but, since Dublin is not under the jurisdiction of this House, it is no business of ours. Obviously, if there had not been this question of the will, that would be the line this House could be expected to take. Sir Hugh Lane was, indeed, a changeable and somewhat erratic man in some of his business habits. But, I think, to put it mildly, there is sufficient doubt about Sir Hugh Lane's intentions to make it perfectly proper for us in this House at least to say—I would not put it quite as positively as the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. Mallalieu)—that we in no kind of way commit a breach of this trust if we allow these pictures to go to Ireland.
I therefore join with the right hon. Member for Colne Valley in hoping that some arrangement for a compromise can be reached with the Eire Government by which these pictures, at any rate for a time, or at any rate a considerable number of them, can be sent to Ireland on proper terms. It seems to me that the argument about what Sir Hugh Lane would have thought in 1926 is quite meaningless. How anybody can tell what a changeable man would have thought 11 years after his death I do not know; it is as if I were asked whether, had I been a horse, I should have run in the Derby—a meaningless proposition.
The fact remains that all that is relevant when we are considering this matter 746 is what was in his mind at the time of his death, and it is clear that the state of his mind at the time of his death— to put it mildly—was such that we could not pretend in any way to be flouting his wishes by allowing some of these pictures to go to Dublin.
The question is, therefore, how we are to do that. It seems to me that there are two ways of doing it. The first is by accepting the Amendment which we are considering at the moment. If it were accepted, the legal ownership of the pictures would at once be transferred to the National Gallery of Dublin and the British would no longer have any interest in the pictures at all. I suppose that is what is meant by the phrase "shall be handed over."
But if, as I imagine, right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench are not willing to go as far as that, I would join the right hon. Member for Colne Valley in suggesting that we should take such a step as that of accepting the later Amendment which would add "The National Gallery of Ireland" to the Schedule. This would give the authorities here power to send these pictures to Ireland on terms of loan and it would also give them power to send other pictures there, on terms of loan, if they wished to do so. I urge that some compromise arrangement along the lines suggested by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley should be reached with the Irish Government.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I agree with almost every word said by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), except his conclusion. To accept the Amendment to the Schedule would not merely enable the authorities to do what he suggests; it would enable the trustees to transfer the ownership of pictures—not only these pictures but any pictures—which raises the very important point of whether they should be allowed to transfer ownership not to a Gallery within the United Kingdom but to a Gallery outside the United Kingdom, and not only the Lane pictures but any pictures.
Nevertheless, I agree very much with the hon. Gentleman's main contention. The strongest argument for returning these pictures to Dublin is that on the whole, as far as we can tell, there is at least no reason to suppose—putting it 747 negatively, as the hon. Member said—that we should be committing any breach of trust by doing so. We must have slight twinges of conscience about the whole story of Sir Hugh Lane's will and codicil. Secondly, these pictures are much in demand in Dublin and would be greatly used in Dublin.
There is one point which should be cleared up. In an excellent suggestion that there should be a compromise, the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) said that the removal of these pictures would leave a gap. No doubt the removal of any picture of that class, of any important picture, from our National Gallery or the Tate Gallery would leave a gap, but am I not right in saying that for long periods some of these pictures have never been shown? I do not think we should stress too much the argument that their removal would leave a large gap.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
All. I meant to say was that if they all went it would leave a gap in that period in the gallery.
§ Mr. Grimond
I entirely accept that. Like the hon. Member for Devizes and the right hon. Member for Colne Valley, I should like to see a compromise reached. Leaving the legal argument aside, it seems to be more satisfactory either that for certain periods all these pictures should be shown in Dublin or that at least certain of them should be sent to Dublin.
May I point out that if Sir Hugh Lane had had the good sense to be domiciled in Scotland, his codicil would have been perfectly effective? The fact that it was not witnessed is a very narrow legal point and I do not think we should rely entirely upon it.
I should like to hear the Government's views on another powerful point made by the hon. and learned Member for Brigg. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of a parallel case, the Ken Wood pictures, in which this House intervened and regularised the will of the late Lord Iveagh. If that is true, it seems a strong argument indeed, because one point which has weighed with me is that it is undesirable for Parliament to try to interpret wills and to make good legal deficiencies. If there is a parallel case, that seems to me to remove a great deal of the force of that argument.
748 It is almost unanimously agreed that Sir Hugh Lane was a volatile man, but I remind the House that on this occasion he took the trouble to make the codicil and to see that it fell into hands which would treat it in the way in which he wanted it treated. There is, therefore, strong argument that, on the whole, he meant these pictures to go to Dublin. Although I foresee certain dangers in removing the only grievance upon which the North and South of Ireland are united, and on which even the hon. Members for Belfast are united, I recommend the Committee to come to some arrangement, although not the arrangement which would be made by the alteration in the Schedule, for sending these pictures, or at any rate some of them, back to Dublin.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset South)
In the first part of his speech, the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) made great play with the fact that Sir Hugh Lane was an eccentric man whose mind was in a state of flux. I do not think that is relevant to the issue. I have seen the right hon. Gentleman's mind in a state of flux on more than one occasion when he was Financial Secretary. Indeed, in his speech this morning he did not come down on one side or the other until near the end.
It is what happens at the end that matters. If Sir Hugh Lane had had his codicil witnessed and had then written another codicil unwitnessed, leaving the pictures to the National Gallery, I would take up the cudgels on behalf of the National Gallery. If, further, he had written some letters or left a scrappy piece of paper diverting the pictures back from the National Gallery to Dublin, I would take up the cudgels on the part of Dublin. It is the state of mind of the testator at the time of his death, as far as it can be ascertained, which is important.
I do not think that the full majesty of the law should decide in a matter of this kind, particularly at this stage, 20 or 30 years after the event. The relationships between this country and Southern Ireland are very much better today than they were at the time this committee found in favour of the National Gallery. Do not let us leave out of account the climate of political opinion in which this 749 committee sat. I do not suggest that they did not take a judicial view and come to a high legal and at that time sensible suggestion, but I imagine that if they had reported otherwise at the time there might have been a very serious howl from large sections of opinion in this country.
I rise principally to make it clear why my name appears on the Amendment dealing with the Schedule and not on the principal Amendment which we are discussing. It is because I think it is a little dangerous for Parliament to legislate forthwith to transfer the pictures to the Gallery in Dublin. I do not think that public opinion in the artistic world is fully worked out on this subject. It has been discussed early this year and it arose again last week on Second Reading, but not much has been said about it. We have not yet had the opinion of the art critics and lovers of art, ranging through the national Press and the weekly Press.
Before we have had this opinion and before public opinion has been formed in universities and elsewhere, it would be wrong for us forthwith to transfer these pictures. I therefore prefer the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) of adding the Gallery of Ireland to the Schedule. That gives the authorities the appropriate power to direct that these pictures should be returned to Ireland. They could exercise that power at the appropriate time, possibly a year from now, when public opinion has formed and manifested itself and the problem has been settled one way or the other.
I do not seriously support the contention of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) that this is a dangerous provision because it would mean that the Treasury could dispose of not only the Hugh Lane pictures in the Tate Gallery but a great many others, and send them to Ireland. As we are conferring this power on the Treasury and giving by this Bill greater facility for directing works of art about the world, we can expect that they would, in fact, transfer to Dublin pictures other than the Hugh Lane bequest pictures.
I seriously commend this alternative of the Schedule to my hon. Friend the 750 Financial Secretary, and I hope very much that he will take advantage of it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley, in the second part of his speech, refused this compromise suggestion, but he did not make at all clear how, if this Bill is passed, these pictures are to be legally transferred. Under what authority, under what previous Act, will it be possible to achieve this compromise and transfer the pictures? If he will make that clear to the Committee, I think that it would help us.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Perhaps I did not make myself clear, and I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me now to state what I had in mind. I had in mind that if we wanted, in the light of this discussion, to alter the Bill to make it possible to come to some compromise with Dublin, that that should be done if necessary.
That is an important statement by the right hon. Gentleman. It means that he is approaching some suggestion of the kind which is now before the Committee. It may be that we have not got the right words. The Amendment may be wrong, and even the one attaching to the Schedule, but it would seem that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to put into this Bill some sort of provision to enable the pictures to be transferred and is not relying on the passage of the Bill in its present form and some further Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
I found the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) singularly unpersuasive. I think that it will have little weight in the Committee today. He said that it was difficult to reconstruct the mind of a man long since dead, but there are certain criteria by which his testamental intentions can be ascertained. I submit that among these are his express desires or will when set out in writing as they are here.
Another point made by my right hon. Friend is that there is no case of a will of a private person being altered by a public Act of Parliament. I am sure that the Committee will agree that the House is omnipotent in matters of that sort. If the House sees fit, it can implement the will or codicil of a deceased person according to its inten- 751 tion, and that is what we are asking the Committee now to do.
The right hon. Member for Come Valley did not explain why, in his view, Sir Hugh Lane executed the codicil at all, if he did not intend it to be implemented in accordance with the words expressed in his codicil. What was the intention of Sir Hugh Lane? Did he intend the codicil to be effective or not effective? He went to the trouble of writing it out in his own hand and signed it in three places. The right hon. Gentleman did not explain any of these things because they are inexplicable except upon the basis of this Amendment.
Then my right hon. Friend talked about a conversation with Mr. McColl. That, in my submission, is quite irrelevant to the matter we are considering now. He also mentioned the gap there would be in the National Gallery if these pictures were taken away; and that seems to me also a consideration which should have no weight in our discussion today on the question of Sir Hugh Lane's intention.
As to his compromise plan, does he suggest, as I thought he said, that it should be incorporated in the Bill or was it just an airy suggestion in order to get rid of this Amendment? I do not think that the suggestion about a compromise should have any weight with the Committee.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
If my hon. and learned Friend will look at Clause 4, he will see that in subsection (1) paragraph (a), line 4, that there is complete power to display for an indefinite number of years or for ever without any alteration in this Bill at all, if so desired.
§ Mr. Hughes
I agree that there is that power, but this is a question of implementing the intention of the testator and transferring the ownership of the pictures. It is ownership and not merely a matter of display.
My submission is that the criteria which should actuate this Committee are all at present here. They are not legalistic, they are cultural and humane, and they are designed to implement the will and the expressed desire of Sir Hugh Lane. The case made today is put, not on legalistic grounds, but on ethical and 752 moral grounds. On these grounds, my submission is that this Amendment should commend itself to the Committee.
There is one point which I should like to concede in fairness, and that is that the pictures are at present held by the National Gallery or the Tate Gallery as a statutory body. They cannot part with them without the stautory authority of the House, and that is why the supporters of this Amendment seize this opportunity to ask the Committee to give statutory authority to part with these pictures.
There are four other points which I should like to put before the Committee. One is that the reasons actuating this Amendment are based on ethics, morals, good sense and decency which are, in my submission, the qualities which should actuate our deliberations in the House. The second point which has been put by hon. Members opposite is that people in the north and south of Ireland are in favour of this Amendment. There is no border in this matter. This is not a political question. It is purely a question of ethics, morals and decency.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Droylsden)
If there is this complete agreement between the north and south, how does my hon. and learned Friend reconcile the two Amendments on page 4040 of the Notice Paper?
§ Mr. Hughes
I do not want to confuse the issue before the Committee, which is a simple one. Here we have Ireland, north and south, united, a small nation asking this great nation to do what appears to be right and just in this matter, to be truly great in magnanimity by implementing the codicil of Sir Hugh Lane. In my submission, to attempt to retain these pictures in the face of the facts would be a greedy thing, and it seems to me that art and greed go ill together.
This Amendment is designed to marry legal ownership to moral ownership so that henceforth they can walk hand-in-hand. The facts are simple. There are some that should be emphasised. One is that Sir Hugh Lane was a director of the National Gallery of Ireland who naturally would wish his pictures to go to Ireland.
753 The intention and wish expressed in the codicil would naturally be the desire of Sir Hugh Lane that his pictures should go to Ireland. He was a world-famous collector of pictures, a connoisseur. The one thing that has not been sufficiently emphasised is the actual terms of the codicil, which is very short. It should be on record. It is written on the notepaper of the National Gallery of Ireland. It is dated 3rd February, 1915, and is signed at the top and at the bottom by Sir Hugh Lane. It is all in his own handwriting and is in the following words:This is a codicil to my last will, to the effect that the group of pictures now at the London National Gallery, which I have bequeathed to that institution, I now bequeath to the City of Dublin, provided a suitable building is provided for them within five years of my death. The group of pictures I have left at Belfast I give to the Municipal Gallery in Harcourt Street"—which is in Dublin.If a building is provided within five years the whole collection will be housed together. The sole trustee in this matter is to be my aunt, Lady Gregory. She is to appoint an additional trustee as she may think fit. I also wish the pictures now on loan at this the National Gallery of Ireland to remain as a gift. Hugh Lane.There are a further short few lines:I would like my friend Tom Bodkin to be asked to help in the obtaining of this new gallery of modern art in Dublin. If within five years the gallery is not forthcoming then the group of pictures at the London National Gallery are to be sold and the proceeds go to fulfil the purposes of my will. Hugh Lane, 3rd February, 1915.Whatever may be in doubt about this case and this argument, there can be no doubt that that document was an expression of the intention of Sir Hugh Lane. It is very important for the Committee to realise that the whole of the document which I have just read was in Sir Hugh Lane's own handwriting, was in due legal form, was signed by him in three places and was put safely in his own desk in the National Gallery of Ireland just before he went to America. On his return journey as we have heard, he was in the "Lusitania" which was, unhappily, torpedoed. Surely these are dominating considerations that the Committee will bear in mind in determining whether or not to accept the Amendment.
There is no suggestion of any other irregularity—except the absence of a 754 witness—of any impropriety, of undue influence, or of duress. Those things have never been suggested, yet two statutory bodies, because they are statutory bodies, are unable to part with these pictures. I ask the Committee to accept the Amendment in order to give those bodies statutory power to hand over the pictures to the gallery which Sir Hugh Lane obviously intended to have them. On all those grounds, I ask the Committee to pass the Amendment.
§ 12.15 p.m.
§ Mr. William Teeling (Brighton, Pavilion)
The Committee may be feeling a little confused. Some hon. Members may have the impression that the proposal in regard to the National Gallery of Ireland is an alternative to the plan that some of us want accepted in regard to the pictures of Sir Hugh Lane. There are two separate issues involved. Hon. Members should do everything possible to let Sir Hugh Lane's pictures be handed over to Ireland, but loans of other pictures should also be made to the Dublin National Gallery. My noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) made a very good point when he said that in 1926, when the committee reported, there was considerable ill-feeling against Southern Ireland and there would have been much anger if the pictures had then been handed to Ireland. These feelings have long since passed and today the situation is completely different.
The noble Lord said he thought that feeling on this subject was not yet sufficiently roused and there was not sufficient interest. Last Friday I was not able to be in the House because I was in Dublin. Although I read the English newspapers next morning there was practically no mention of the speeches of the two hon. Members for Belfast, but these were very much headlined in all the Irish papers. There is certainly very strong feeling over there on that side of the Channel. It is not ill-feeling at the moment, but an irritation. We ought to forget as much as we can of the legal side of this matter and think of it as a matter of friendship between the two countries. Some people may think it is silly to have all this feeling about a matter of 39 pictures, but it is very serious because it irritates and so involves the friendship between the two countries.
755 Ireland is much more interested in art than in military problems, and is at present extremely worried and unhappy that this matter cannot be cleared up. I am not at all sure that the Irish would be happy about the alternative of lending the pictures to their National Gallery. They really want the matter settled so that they can own them. We have very much art in this country, but there is a very small amount of it in Ireland and it is difficult for the Irish student, who finds that there is not very much to see in Dublin. There is so much more in London and he cannot afford to go there. The Amendment would be of great assistance to the Irish student.
There is very keen interest in this matter in Ireland. This is a gesture which should not be left to a time when anything is going wrong; it should be now, when we are on the friendliest of terms. To say that wills cannot be altered by Parliament is wholly inaccurate. What about the will of the late Sir Ernest Cassel? What about the Mountbatten case, which was dealt with under the last Government? That was certainly not carrying out the intentions of the Cassel will. I am sure that what was done then can be done again, and it ought to be done. If my hon. Friend feels that it is impossible, then we must fall back on the new Clause which has been tabled, but the Clause should not be dealing only with the Lane pictures but with the possibility of lending other kinds of pictures.
We are not dealing with a new Clause. We are dealing with the first Amendment on the Order Paper and also with the second Amendment to the First Schedule.
§ Mr. Teeling
Thank you, Sir Rhys. I made a mistake. I am speaking about the second Amendment to the First Schedule.
We should agree that the Tate Gallery should be permitted to lend pictures to the National Gallery of Ireland, if necessary, permanently. It is absurd to talk of Southern Ireland as a completely alien country. In the arts, literature and in suchlike matters, the associations are practically the same between Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland and between England, Scotland and Wales. We go backwards and forwards, but we 756 are closely associated in many of these things; and art should know no borders.
We have been able to make it quite clear that when we want people for the Armed Forces we make Southern Ireland the only country outside the Commonwealth that is not considered alien. We can do the same thing in art. The National Gallery in Dublin is also, in a sense, the National Gallery of the whole of Ireland. It was started like that and it was considered as that. If things can be lent to other parts of Great Britain and to Northern Ireland, why cannot we lend to Southern Ireland? I think we are becoming a bit confused on this issue by talking only about the Lane pictures and not remembering that some of us are extremely anxious to have loans made to the National Gallery of Ireland of other pictures as well.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Henry Brooke)
First, I should like to express my appreciation for the moderate and reasonable way in which this Amendment has been discussed. I do not know whether ever in the history of Parliament a controversial question affecting Ireland has ever been debated with such restraint. Certainly, if hon. Members have had strong emotional feelings on the matter they have kept them under control, and I think we all owe a great deal to the very moderate terms in which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) moved his Amendment.
As to the present whereabouts of the pictures, the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) suggested that many of them were not available to be seen for long periods.
§ Mr. Brooke
I do not think it is true, except in wartime, that the Lane pictures have been subject to large-scale withdrawal from view, but, at any rate, the present situation is that of the 39 pictures 24 are on exhibition in the Tate Gallery, nine in the National Gallery and there are only six which are not at present exhibited. I am sure the Committee will understand that the 39 pictures are not all of equal merit.
Secondly, I should like to assure the Committee that the only point at issue 757 here is the ownership of the pictures. My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) and possibly one or two other hon. Members seemed to me to be suggesting that there was some argument about the loan of the pictures and that the acceptance or non-acceptance of either of these Amendments might affect the powers of the trustees to lend the pictures to Dublin. That is not so. There is no difficulty whatever about lending the pictures, and, indeed, it is well-known that the trustees of the National Gallery have, in the past, offered to lend many of the pictures to Dublin. The question at issue is simply their ownership.
A point made by the hon. and learned Member for Brigg and by some other hon. Members was that there were plenty of precedents for altering the terms of a will by an Act of Parliament. I have investigated that so far as I am able to, and I confess I have not been able to discover any precedent for altering by an Act of Parliament a will where the beneficiaries were not in agreement that it should be altered. There is a distinction between an Act of Parliament endorsing an agreed settlement between the beneficiaries of a will and what is proposed in this Amendment, that is to say, Parliament intervening and determining, contrary to the legal terms of a will, a highly controversial matter about a certain bequest.
I think it might be for the convenience of the Committee if I dealt first with the Amendment which proposes to include in the First ScheduleThe National Gallery of Ireland.My difficulty about inviting the Committee to accept that Amendment is this. The First Schedule lists those national institutions to which it is suggested that the Treasury should have the power to direct bequests or that the Tate Gallery should have the power to transfer pictures which they no longer require. Since 1949, Eire has not been a part of the British Commonwealth, and if hon. Members will examine the list in the Schedule they will see that there is no gallery or institution outside the United Kingdom mentioned in it.
The effect of this Amendment, if it were accepted, would be to introduce into that list a national institution outside the Commonwealth while not including in the list great picture galleries which are 758 within the Commonwealth. This is a United Kingdom Bill and I could not advise the Committee to write into it such an anomalous change as that.
I return to the main Amendment which has been moved, concerning the future of the Lane pictures. I must apologise if I keep the Committee for a little time, but we have debated this from many points of view and I think that hon. Members will probably wish the Government to explain the main facts on which we have to come to a decision.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that part of his speech, would he say a word about precedent? He said he could find no precedent, but does he not agree that the House is sovereign and is not bound by precedent?
§ Mr. Brooke
I entirely agree that the House is sovereign and I am coming now to discuss the issue of the Lane pictures; but I think it was right at the outset of my speech to deal with that one point which was a general argument raised by the hon. and learned Member.
If I may remind the Committee of the facts, they are these. In 1907, Sir Hugh Lane founded a gallery of modern painting in Dublin. In July, 1913, Sir Hugh informed the Director of the National Gallery that, as the Dublin Corporation was reluctant to carry out his conditions as to building a permanent gallery to house the collection, he had decided to offer as a temporary loan to the National Gallery in London a group of 39 pictures. Those pictures were deposited with the National Gallery in London in September of that year and on 3rd October he executed a will bequeathing the 39 pictures to the London National Gallery.
May I say, in parenthesis, that we all agree that this was his legal testament. There has been no argument as to the legal position; the argument has centred entirely around the moral issue. On 3rd February, 1915, Sir Hugh Lane drew up and signed a codicil to his will bequeathing the 39 pictures to the City of Dublin. Three months later, on 7th May, he was drowned in the tragedy of the sinking of the "Lusitania."
This unhappy story has given rise to very strong feelings, and it is fortunate that we can debate it now in a calmer 759 atmosphere. In 1924, the then Labour Government appointed a committee—it was not a Select Committee as has been suggested—to consider two questions relating to the Lane pictures. The committee was composed of one hon. Member from each of the three main parties in the House. So what we are doing this morning is, in effect, reviewing the work that was done with great care by three of our former colleagues 30 years ago. The Government asked those three hon. Members to report, first whether Sir Hugh Lane, when he signed the codocil, thought that he was making a legal disposition; and, secondly, if so, whether it was in their opinion proper that in view of the international character of the matter at issue, the legal defect in the codicil should be remedied by legislation.
The committee went into the matter carefully and they presented a report which was published subsequently and which I have read with great thoroughness. Their findings were these on the two questions: first, that Sir Hugh Lane, in signing the codicil, thought he was making a legal disposition. It is true that of the three hon. Members one desired it to be placed on record that he felt unable to associate himself with the unqualified reply of his colleagues on that matter. To the second question their reply was unanimous. They said:…nevertheless, it would not be proper to modify Sir Hugh Lane's will by public Act of Parliament. To do so would, in addition to constituting a legal precedent of the utmost gravity, not justified by the facts, have the effect of bringing about a result contrary to the real spirit of Sir Hugh Lane's intentions. Our reply to the second question is, therefore, in the negative.I should like to be allowed to say a few more words about that, so as to give an indication to the Committee of the way in which that conclusion was reached. I do not like quoting at length, but this White Paper is not readily available now, being 30 years old, and if I have the permission of the Committee, therefore, I will read four or five sentences from it. These come from the earlier part where they are examining the second question put to them:Nothing stands out more clearly from the record of Lane's acts and conversations during the years 1913 to 1915 than the instability of his attitude towards the rival claims of the Dublin and the London Galleries. The friction in which he found himself unfortunately 760 involved with the authorities of either institution in turn bent his thoughts now to London, now to Dublin, as the possible recipients of his gift. A mood of annoyance with the one or the other caused him to vacillate with a frequency and suddenness which appear remarkable, until it is realised that underlying the rapid and impulsive changes of his attitude there was one steady purpose ever present to his mind. The establishment, under worthy conditions, of a Gallery of Modern Continental Painting, ultimately perhaps to be comparable with the great modern galleries of the capitals of Europe, was the goal to which Lane's activities seem constantly to have been directed.Whether this Gallery should be in Dublin or in London was, in our view, a matter to which he was relatively indifferent; a hint that either city was in a position to provide a building commensurate with his idea seemed enough to turn his mind in its favour. In his conversations he was careful to avoid any commitment so definite as to hamper his future discretion; even during the period between the signature of the codicil and his departure for America we find that he expressed himself in contrary senses to the one party and the other, making it clear to the dispassionate observer that not until he was finally assured of the prospect of a Gallery did he intend to commit himself irrevocably.As far as can be ascertained, that is the fact of the matter as reported upon by a committee of our former colleagues 30 years ago. We have to consider this morning whether or not it is desirable to over-ride and set aside those findings and reach another conclusion. I think it was the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) who said that the committee took a very judicious view. On the other hand, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Lieut.-Colonel Hyde) described the report as an unsatisfactory compromise. So even among those who have spoken today in favour of some transfer of the Lane pictures, there seem to be some who accept and some who question the strength and cogency of that report.
I cannot allow to pass the suggestion made by the hon. and learned Member for Brigg that there was any patent absurdity on the face of the report. I feel sure the Committee must accept that report as a serious contribution which was made in the light of all the known facts. The noble Lord said that it is what one says at the end that matters. What I feel bound to say at the end is this: if this Amendment were passed, what we should be doing, after a debate of 1½ hours, would be to set aside the careful findings of three of our colleagues 761 specially appointed for the purpose 30 years ago, nearer the time of the original events; and findings of theirs which have stood for 30 years, in the sense that successive Parliaments have had the opportunity in that period, if they wished, of over-riding the findings of this report and have not done so. That being so, I must advise the Committee that it would be wrong to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I hope the last word that has just been uttered is not the last word as far as action is concerned. I would commend to the Committee and to Her Majesty's Government the suggestion that was thrown out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall). During the last 10 years, although it is true that Southern Ireland has left the British Commonwealth, there has been a welcome softening of the relationships between us. On two or three occasions when I was Home Secretary, I had to say to the House of Commons with regard to certain practical matters, such as the level at which water should be kept in a lake and whether poaching should be allowed in a river at a place where nobody was quite sure of the boundary, and issues like that, that the two parts of Ireland had reached a working arrangement.
Surely that is precisely the sort of thing that ought to happen here. I am surprised that my hon. and learned Friends the Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) and the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), both Her Majesty's counsel learned in the law, should say that whether the codicil was signed or not really did not matter. I am sure that if I had instructed a solicitor to go to them and ask if this codicil was binding and they had not known there was any politics in it, both would have said "No" straight away.
We do not want to get into legalistic considerations in a matter like this. I sincerely hope that Her Majesty's Government will find some way by which these pictures, which ought to be for the enrichment and improvement of the two nations, shall be available in such a way that perhaps not the strict letter of the law but a reasonable working arrangement between two sister nations can be secured.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
Would it be right for the Financial Secretary to give the names of the three members of the committee to which so much importance is being attached?
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) should have thought that anyone sought to introduce legalistic considerations into this matter. I thought that I was very explicit in my remarks in pointing out that there was no legal case whatsoever. In short, I argued on the contrary, that it was purely a case of morals with which we had to deal.
In view of the interjection of my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) during the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), it might be for the convenience of the Committee if I added a few words about the statement in the codicil that if within five years a gallery was not forthcoming in Dublin the thing was to fall. In what circumstances was it to fall? Let us consider the exact words of the codicil. They are:If within 5 years a gallery is not forthcoming, then the group of pictures at the London National Gallery are to be sold,"—and these are the operative words—and the proceeds are to go to fulfil the purpose of my Will.If we turn back to the will we find that the pictures were to be sold and all the residuary estate was to go to another Dublin Gallery. In any event, therefore, whether the gallery was built in five years or not these pictures were intended by Lane to go to one or other of the Dublin Galleries.
Therefore, to suggest that because the gallery was not built within five years in Dublin the codicil should not be enforced is nonsensical. Yet it was on that ground more than on any other that in the debate on this Bill in another place their Lordships found against the return of these pictures to Dublin.
In a most reasonable and persuasive speech, the Financial Secretary said today that there was no precedent for altering a will. Was not the Rhodes will altered by Act of Parliament? In any event, nobody is suggesting altering the last will and testament of this testator, Sir Hugh Lane. What is suggested is 763 that effect should be given to the will. He expressed his will, as indeed a Committee of the House of Commons stated, in a way to put it beyond all doubt, expressing his intention at the time of the codicil. All that is being asked is that it should be validated and given effect in spite of the absence of the legal requisite of witnessing.
This Amendment does not attempt to alter the will. It would give effect to it, not frustrating the testator's wish as in the cases of Rhodes and the artist Turner and many others. Since the report of this committee was made, there has been the case of Lord Iveagh whose schedule of pictures which he wished to leave to the nation was not witnessed and therefore not valid. The pictures therefore went to the heir. The heir was willing that effect should be given to the real wish of the testator and the pictures went, by Act of Parliament, to Kenwood Park, for the nation.
The Financial Secretary seeks to say that this case is not on all fours with Lane's because the possible claimants are not at one in his case. Who are the beneficiaries in Lane's case? Are they really, as the hon. Gentleman pretends, the trustees of the National Gallery and some other trustees? They are not. The contending beneficiaries are some trustees in Dublin and the House of Commons. If, therefore, we are agreeable to these pictures going to Dublin the possible alternative beneficiaries are in agreement, and it is a legal fiction of the worst order—I do not say that in any way offensively—to call in aid the fact that the pictures are nominally left to the trustees of a particular gallery when the real intention was to leave them to the nation: and we are here to express the nation's conscience. I hope that the Committee will take a strong view and will vote in the Division Lobby in favour of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
I must correct a misapprehension which may arise from what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) when he suggested that if I were asked for a legal opinion on this codicil I should have to pronounce against it. That will introduce an element of confusion into consideration of this matter——
I do not think that what opinion the hon. and learned Member would give if he were asked is relevant to the Amendment.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I do not know whether the Committee realises how serious is the position. The Bill was passed in another place and we are due to take the Third Reading today. If these Amendments are negatived, this will be the last chance that this Parliament will have of doing anything about this issue for years to come because, as far as I know, there is no other legislation under which this transfer can be made and these pictures will be sealed in the Tate Gallery after four o'clock this afternoon. [An HON. MEMBER: "A loan."] I do not think it is clear from the Bill that a loan can be made to the art gallery in Dublin.
§ Mr. H. Brooke
May I again give the noble Lord an assurance on that? If this Bill is passed there will be complete power for the trustees of the National Gallery and of the Tate Gallery to lend, to Dublin or elsewhere, any of the Lane pictures.
§ Dr. Stross
I support the noble Lord in his contention. I do not think that this is a matter on which the Committee should divide. May I also say that I think Sir Hugh Lane was absolutely justified in playing off the two sides, or the two galleries, the one against the other? If there is one thing quite certain it is that when a collector is about to give away his collection, he is ruthless in his desire that the pictures shall be seen to the best possible advantage and by as many folk as possible. As the Financial Secretary has said, this Bill has within it all the machinery by means of which, after discussion, such as has been suggested——
§ Dr. Stross
I am sure that the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend will be carried out, that the Financial Secretary will take note of it, and that we shall be able to display, frequently backwards and forwards this collection and any other pictures we may wish to lend.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
But how does my hon. Friend know that the suggestion is to be carried out by the Government? After the Financial 765 Secretary's speech, what reason have we to suppose that?
§ Mr. H. Brooke
I should like, with permission, to give the information for which the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) has asked. The report of 1926 was signed by J. W. Wilson, as Chairman—a Liberal; George H. Barnes, Labour; and John W. Hills, Conservative.
I have only this to add. We are debating solely the ownership of the pictures. There is no reason whatever why, if the Bill goes through, some happy arrangement should not be reached whereby these pictures can be seen in Dublin as well as in London. I hope that the general view of the Committee will be that, on matters such as that, we can place reliance in the trustees, who have shown willingness to lend in the past and, I have no doubt, will show willingness to lend again. I hope that the Committee may now feel disposed to come to a conclusion.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Droylsden)
The difficulty I feel is that already, in 1920, 1922 and 1923, efforts were made to reconcile the different views of the people of Eire and ourselves. We failed. If we fail again then, in my opinion, there is no opportunity whatsoever for us to come to a decision on it. No one knows whether any agreement can be reached between the Eire Government and ourselves. I feel, therefore, that we should make a decision today, when the matter is absolutely alive in our minds.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Might I appeal to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)? If he and others who are like-minded proceed to a Division it will put some of us in a quandary. We are anxious that Ireland should enjoy the pictures, but were we forced to vote against the Amendment it would appear that we were against anything of that kind happening. That is absolutely contrary to what we do want. We want both countries to share these treasures. The assurance of the Financial Secretary is sufficient, at any rate for me, to establish the fact that so far as the Government are concerned they are very willing to make every effort 766 to come to terms with the present Irish Government.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu
Much though I should like to meet any wishes expressed by my right hon. Friend, I do not feel able to meet this one. For me at any rate, even if for no one else, this is a matter of conscience. If it is desirable that the people of both countries shall view these pictures—and I should subscribe to that most willingly—let us hand them to the Eire Government, and let that Government lend them back. That could be done equally well. To me it is a matter of conscience. This man wanted these pictures to go to Dublin, and that is the end of it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hyde
In view of the feeling which has been expressed this morning, I appeal to the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu). The Amendment to the First Schedule, standing in my name, is likely to provoke some feeling, so perhaps he could agree to concentrate on that. After all, that is designed merely to give permission to the Treasury to authorise the use of the powers mentioned, whereas the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member is designed to effect the immediate transfer. Would he not agree to withdraw his Amendment and support the Amendment to the Schedule?
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Why does the Financial Secretary place such reliance upon the three men who subscribed to the report 30 years' ago? They were ordinary Members of the House of Commons. Why should their dicta remain for 30 years and inhibit the Committee from deciding on this today?
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
The Minister was about to rise to answer by question, Sir Rhys. Will you allow him to answer?
§ Mr. H. Brooke
I have no desire to quarrel with the hon. and learned Member, although we might have a difference of opinion as to whether, in certain matters, a will need be witnessed or not.
My reason for speaking as I have done is this. Three reponsible Members of this House, chosen by the Labour Government of the day as people well suited 767 to conduct an impartial inquiry of this kind, reached unanimous conclusions. They went into the matter nearer to the time in question, and with far greater thoroughness than any of us can possibly have done in the last few hours.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
In view of the decision to which the Committee has just come, may we now please have some indication from the Financial Secretary as to what is proposed to be done? As I understand it, the Committee has now reached a decision on the right of possession of these pictures. During the discussion on my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment, a number of suggestions were made by the Financial Secretary—in urging my hon. Friends and others not to carry the Amendment to the Division Lobby—as to what he proposed should happen. I think that my hon. and learned Friend was quite right to put the matter to the vote and to give the Committee the opportunity of
§ I must say, therefore, that I think we should be very chary indeed about upsetting their considered conclusions.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 20; Noes, 89.767
|Division No. 227.]||AYES||[12.58 p.m.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Parker, J.|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Teeling, W.|
|Follick, M.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Grimond, J.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Willis, E. G.|
|Hale, Leslie||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Hastings, S.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hollis, M. C.||MacColl, J. E.||Lieut.-Colonel Hyde and|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Mellish, R. J.||Mr. E. L. Mallalieu.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Heath, Edward||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Higgs, J. M. C.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Hughes-Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Russell, R. S.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Shepherd, William|
|Campbell, Sir David||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Channon, H.||Lindsay, Martin||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Longden, Gilbert||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Deedes, W. F.||McAdden, S. J.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Deer, G.||McCallum, Major D.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Viant, S. P.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Wrwk & Lmgtn)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Fell, A.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald||Wellwood, W.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Mellor, Sir John||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Foster, John||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Gough, C. F. H.||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Page, R. G.||Mr. Kaberry and|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Colonel J. H. Harrison.|
§ coming to a decision on it. That decision has now been reached.
§ Nevertheless, before the Committee agree to the Motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," I hope that the Financial Secretary will give an assurance that the proposals he made for giving opportunities, both here and in Ireland—and particularly in Ireland—for these pictures to be seen, will be carried out. I also hope that he will be able to carry a little further the assurance which he gave to my hon. and learned Friend, and will be able to say on behalf of the trustees that they will take all the necessary steps to see that these pictures are on view in Dublin, notwithstanding the fact that the Committee is being asked to accept Clause 1 in its present form.769
§ Mr. Ede
Having heard the discussion which took place on the Amendment, I hope that the Financial Secretary will at least bring that discussion to the attention of the trustees on whom, I understand, the responsibility will now rest, for I do not think that any doubt was expressed by any hon. Member on the desirability of working arrangements being made whereby, on occasion, some or all of these pictures should be available in Ireland.
We have decided that these pictures shall remain vested, as far as ownership is concerned, in the trustees of the Tate Gallery. Therefore, it is now up to them in regard to what is to happen in the future. There can be no doubt as to the feelings of the Committee, and we can only hope that the trustees of the gallery will find means of implementing what is the evident desire of the House, and I say that as one who voted with the Government against the Amendment.
§ Mr. H. Brooke
I will gladly respond to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has just said, and I will bring to the notice of the trustees everything that was said in the discussion on the Amendment, as well as what the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) have just said on the Question now before the Committee. I will ask them to consider it all, not only carefully but sympathetically.
If I cannot go any further and indicate what will actually happen, the hon. Member for Islington, East will recognise that I have to be careful not to anticipate the decision of the Committee on any other Clause of the Bill, because we are to proceed to discuss their powers. I feel certain, however, that the trustees of both galleries will wish to inform themselves thoroughly of the feelings of the Committee, which I think are already clear or will be made clear in the course of the debate.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
This Clause deals with three matters. Subsection (1) deals with the responsibility for the collection, subsection (2) is the vesting provision, and subsection (3) provides that the Tate Gallery Trustees shall have like powers to those which were vested in the Trustees of the National Gallery before this Bill was introduced. I think the Minister should give us some definition of these 770 powers, and I think he probably has some instrument in writing which sets out these powers and responsibilities. If so, I think the Committee should know what they are before it agrees to the Clause.
May I have an answer to a specific question, which is based on an instrument in writing which the Minister now has, or, if he has not got it here, ought to have?
§ Mr. H. Brooke
The purpose of subsection (3) is to make it quite clear that the Trustees of the Tate Gallery take over the existing powers and duties of the National Gallery Trustees. The powers and duties of the National Gallery Trustees were originally laid down in the National Gallery Act, 1856, which I should be prepared to read to the Committee, if desired. I think, however, that we have a good deal of business to get through, and that, on the assurance that no new powers are being created, the hon. and learned Gentleman might allow us to proceed.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.