HC Deb 05 November 1954 vol 532 cc793-821

2.30 p.m.

Mr. N. Nicolson

I beg to move, in page 3, line 4, to leave out from "exhibition," to the end of line 5, and to insert: in the United Kingdom or to exhibitions of international artistic importance abroad. We now come to the most controversial Clause of the Bill to which I have put down one or two Amendments with the same object, firstly, to make perfectly clear in the Bill the intentions of Parliament and, secondly, to prevent the trustees, or future trustees, from exceeding powers granted to them. It may be said that the intentions of Parliament are well known and that the trustees are themselves trustworthy, but in a few years intentions will be forgotten and the trustees will change. Hence this Amendment, which specifies that we shall only lend pictures to exhibitions of international artistic importance, in order to safeguard our collections from being widely distributed to exhibitions of little worth.

Not only may pictures get damaged in transit or by hanging in an unsuitable building, but the frequent change of climate or light does great harm to pictures. Therefore, we should lay it down in the Bill that it is not intended that the pictures shall go to any but exhibitions of prime importance, to instance one, the Giorgione Exhibition, which is being organised in Venice in the summer of next year. It is quite right that the National Gallery should be allowed to lend its "Adoration" by Giorgione to that exhibition, but it is wrong that either the Tate or the National galleries should be able to lend pictures to exhibitions which are nothing more than medleys of different periods and different artists.

I ask the Committee therefore to endorse this Amendment, thereby assisting the trustees to protect themselves against the exorbitant demands of foreign exhibitors. The loaning of pictures is becoming a kind of international commodity market. One foreign director says to a friend over here, "If I lend you my Rembrandt, will you lend me your Vermeer?"—just as I might be tempted to say this afternoon to hon. Gentlemen opposite, "If you will support this Amendment, I will support yours." It is quite wrong that this practice should go on, with directors looking for feathers in their caps by getting pictures from abroad which are really not necessary to the exhibition and when the exhibition itself may not be necessary.

Mr. H. Brooke

I hope to be able to persuade the Committee that, though we all sympathise with the object of my hon. Friend, the Amendment would make no contribution to it if it were written into the Bill. It would be an instruction as to the kind of foreign lending which the trustees should permit, but, even if we included these words, it would still remain for the trustees to decide what is an exhibition of international artistic importance, and that is precisely the thing which they will have to do under the Bill as it stands. Unless the trustees are wholly unsuitable people, they would not get any guidance from the addition of these words.

There are these further points. Most of us in this Committee are agreed that we do not want to fetter the trustees unduly; that if we get good trustees, they will do their duty well, and if we get bad ones, they should be removed. I invite my hon. Friend to consider whether the requirement in the Amendment would have any effective result because, in the last resort, it would be necessary to have an independent person to judge whether the decisions of the trustees were in accordance with the statutory provision, and there certainly is no independent court and no department of that kind which could so function.

I trust, therefore, that my hon. Friend, having heard my speech and having received my assurance that the trustees intend to act reasonably in all these matters, will feel disposed to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

The Deputy-Chairman

It may be for the convenience of the Committee if we discuss together the Amendments to page 3, lines 8 and 9, and the second Amendment in the name of the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), to line 33.

Mr. K. Robinson

I beg to move, in page 3, line 8, to leave out "or elsewhere."

The effect of this Amendment and the next one to line 9 is to limit loans, other than loans for public exhibition, to the United Kingdom. In moving this Amendment, I want to make it clear that on this side of the Committee we do not want to limit in any way lending for public exhibition. At the same time, we feel that the powers given by Clause 4 are too wide.

I am not altogether happy about lending pictures from national collections to public buildings or official residences in the United Kingdom, but I am prepared to agree to that, subject to certain limitations which, I hope, the Financial Secretary will accept later. However, we do not think it is a good thing that these pictures should go out of the country to embassies and governors' residences for which the Minister of Works is responsible. We have every desire that these buildings should be decorated and adorned in a way fitting to the status of Her Majesty's representatives abroad, but we say it is not desirable that these furnishings and adornments should come out of our national collections in this country.

During the 1920s and 1930s, under the Fascist régime in Italy, it was the practice for Italian masterpieces to be distributed to Italian embassies round the world purely for purposes of prestige, and I am told that the Government of Italy are looking for some of those masterpieces to this day. We order things better in this country, but that is an example of the dangers and, apart from the dangers to pictures from climatic conditions in certain tropical parts of the world, there are many other objections which could be raised.

Would any hon. Member think it reasonable if the Minister of Works were to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum and ransack it of carpets, tapestries and ceramics to ornament some ambassadorial drawing room in Cairo? I do not think that hon. Members would think it at all reasonable, but the analogy is not unreasonable. These are national collections. As far as they can be made, they are complete national collections which tell the story in terms of art and, therefore, we ought not to extract pictures from them purely for the sake of decorating an embassy.

It may be argued that the power is permissive only and that the trustees can be relied upon not to exercise it unreasonably, but I believe that the trustees ought to be protected from the attempts of some future Minister of Works, who might be particularly unfortunate in this respect, and that they should not be placed by Parliament in the position of constantly having to say "No" to a Minister of the Crown. We feel that the job of furnishing these embassies and Government residences which falls to the Ministry of Works should be done by the Minister of Works from funds provided for the purpose.

This matter was dealt with by other hon. Members during the Second Reading. On Tuesday, the Minister of Works, in reply to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), gave some figures of the money available to him for public buildings overseas. He mentioned the figure of £6,000. It is not clear whether £6,000 is the amount available for works of art only. The Minister's answer was a little vague in that respect. If it is for works of art only, it probably ought to be about sufficient to do what he is called upon to do. If it is not enough and has to cover many other things besides works of art, he should have more.

It is most desirable that the furnishing of embassies and official residences abroad should be mainly of contemporary British art. That is what the Ministry of Works should be buying primarily but not exclusively for this purpose. I hope that the Financial Secretary will use his influence within the Treasury to see that the Minister of Works is given money to do the job on his own and does not have to expect the House of Commons to approve his raiding national collections for the purpose.

Mr. Wyatt

It seems to me that the pictures which are liable to be lent abroad to embassies or Governors' residences fall into three possible categories. Either they are simply for decorative purposes, for the benefit of the incumbent for the time being, or they are to show that British painting in the past was good and give some examples of it, or they are to show that we own paintings of other countries which are also good and show examples of them.

To deal with the first category, the category simply designed to decorate pleasingly the residence of the official concerned, it is quite improper that there should be a suggestion that such decoration should come out of national art collections in this country. There is no more reason for that than that every M.P. should be issued with a number of pictures from the National Gallery or the Tate Gallery to decorate his residence. There is no more reason why an ambassador should live in this respect at the public expense than that Members of Parliament should do so.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Less reason.

Mr. Wyatt

I will not enter into that dispute today, but clearly this cannot be justified on decorative grounds.

To show that we have good British painting in the past may be a laudable object, but not many people go to an embassy or the residence of a Governor-General or a High Commissioner. It is a very small percentage indeed, and it may be assumed that the people who visit those residences are already aware of the fact that we have had good British painting in the past and do not need to be reminded of it. If the particular examples of British painting in the past are good enough, they ought not to be shown where they are only seen by a few people abroad. They ought to be kept here, because we have not a large number of good examples. If they are not good examples it would be more harmful to show them in embassies abroad than to keep them locked up in cellars in this country.

2.45 p.m.

The third category, that of simply demonstrating abroad the fact that we own some good pictures painted by foreign artists, also seems to me rather unnecessary and redundant. If they are good examples, they certainly should be shown to people in this country in profusion and not be restricted to the narrow circle of Governors' residences or embassies. The conclusion is that, in so far as it is justified to decorate an embassy or High Commissioner's residence abroad at the public expense, that should be done in the normal course of events by the Minister of Works.

If it is thought that it would be nice to have pictures to show that art flourishes in Britain, we ought to put up only pictures by modern artists to show that art is not dead here. We have the purpose abroad of showing that we are a dynamic country, and that is not demonstrated only by commerce and industry. It is remarkable that in the Embassy in Washington there is a very large picture of George III. That does not seem appropriate either politically or artistically. [Interruption.] I can understand the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) having a considerable affection for George III and wishing his portrait to be displayed throughout America, but I am sure that that is not in keeping with the times or the nature of the Anglo-American alliance today.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

It it better than the last nine years' history of the subservience of the Labour Party to the United States?

The Deputy-Chairman

Perhaps we had better get back to the Amendment.

Mr. Wyatt

I am sorry that I cannot follow up that interesting argument.

In any case, we should not be trying to show British paintings of the past which are good examples. Those ought not to be sent abroad, and neither should bad examples, which are harmful. We should show pictures by contemporary artists. I do not believe that the Ministry of Works is necessarily the right body to choose such pictures. I do not have unlimited faith in the judgment and taste of the present Minister of Works, and I do not suppose that I shall have complete faith in the judgment of a future Minister. It is far more appropriate that such pictures should be bought by some such body as the Arts Council or under its direction, because it is a body of people who are recognised for their capacity to make a judicious selection. There cannot be any justification for allowing pictures which are at present in our national institutions to go to residences abroad.

Mr. N. Nicolson

I think that the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) is labouring under a mistaken impression. We do not intend to spread our national treasures around our embassies, and, in any case, it would be wrong to furnish many of them with modern pictures, because they are not suitable frames for modern pictures. All that we want to do is to put some of our less good pictures which are not hung in our galleries on walls which would otherwise be bare or inappropriately decorated.

Mr. Wyatt

Why does the hon. Gentleman think it appropriate decoration to put less good pictures on the walls?

Mr. Nicolson

I was just coming to that. During the debate in 1935, it was assumed that, rather than send second-or third-rate pictures abroad, it was better to send none at all. I think the hon. Gentleman would agree that we do not take that point of view, and that it is better to have second-rate British and foreign landscapes and portraits hanging on walls which would otherwise be decorated from the slender resources of the ambassador's own purse, and which in some cases would have a much more unfortunate consequence.

I believe that this series of Amendments should not be passed. I have sympathy with them, but I wonder whether the hon. Gentlemen in whose names they stand have considered that they would not only alter the Bill as it stands at the moment, but would take away the powers which already exist under the 1935 Act. If hon. Gentlemen opposite will look at the very last words of the Bill—the last paragraph of the Second Schedule—they will read there that the whole of the 1935 Act save as respects loans made before the date of the coming into operation of this Act is repealed. If this Amendment is accepted, the effect will be that no pictures of any sort—not even fifth-rate British pictures—will be allowed to go abroad to our embassies. I think that that would be a very great disadvantage to the embassies, and that ultimately it would do serious harm to our standing in these important capitals abroad.

Mr. Dugdale

It is with much regret that I oppose my hon. Friend's Amendment. Having seen quite a large number of Colonial Government houses, I think that they are very badly in need of adornment. Many of them are exceedingly badly adorned, and I think that it would be an excellent thing if some of the pictures were sent out to them, particularly some of those which are at present lying unused in the vaults of certain galleries.

My hon. Friend said it was important that these buildings should be adorned in a suitable manner. It is all very well to say that, but no proposals are being made for their adornment today. The suggestion was that money for this purpose should be found from somewhere and that a fund should be set up. I am all for that, but there is nothing here about setting up such a fund.

Mr. K. Robinson

A fund already exists. It has already been set up by the Ministry of Works, and has a balance of £600.

Mr. Dugdale

I do not think that £600 would go very far in the direction that my hon. Friend would wish. My hon. Friend also said—or it might have been my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt)—that it would be most unfortunate if masterpieces were lost, or if they were damaged by climatic conditions. If that is so, then we had better have no pictures at all, even if they came from this fund. It would be far better to keep the walls completely bare, although I do not think that in many colonies they are likely to be so damaged.

Finally, I come to what has been said about it being better to have no pictures at all than to have lesser pictures. Under present conditions, we have pictures provided, maybe with great difficulty, by past governors which in many cases do not give any idea of the artistic traditions of this country. Anybody visiting those Government houses and seeing those pictures would suppose that we were a country totally devoid of all artistic traditions.

My hon. Friend compared these Government residences with the private houses of Members of Parliament. I can assure him that they are not at all the same. If I had half the number of guests that go into these houses in my house, I should be ruined in a week. Streams of guests pour into them and they have a chance of seeing these pictures. I think it most desirable that they should have that opportunity. If because of the acceptance of my hon. Friend's Amendment this opportunity were denied to them, it would be a very great loss to them and to us as a country.

Mr. H. Brooke

In view of the time. I hope that the Committee will allow me to express the view of the Government on this series of Amendments. I wish to make it quite clear to the Committee that if these Amendments were accepted, it would have the effect of withdrawing certain powers which have been in existence for some 19 years, and which, I understand, nave operated satisfactorily and without any serious criticism.

The case put up in favour of the Amendment, so it seemed to me, was that by allowing the Bill to go through as it stands we should, as it were, be inviting the Ministry of Works to get out a lot of pictures which ought to be retained in the national collections and spread them around the world to the detriment of the British people who might otherwise have the opportunity of seeing them.

I want to address myself to that argument, though I do not think that it is as cogent an argument as might appear at first sight. I have taken the trouble to ascertain the present situation. At the present moment, there are 73 pictures belonging to the Tate Gallery which are loaned to embassies abroad. There are over 2,200 pictures at the Tate Gallery which are not on view. Therefore, if these Amendments were passed, those 73 pictures would have to be withdrawn and 73 more pictures would be added to the 2,200 not on view at the Tate.

The position at the National Gallery is that at the moment there are 866 pictures which are not on view, and only six which have been loaned to embassies abroad. Therefore, if one examines the facts, I really think that the case put forword that the people in this island are being deprived of substantial numbers of pictures must fall.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I think that the hon. Gentleman has unwittingly misled the Committee. A very large number of the pictures in the Tate Gallery which are not on view consist of drawings and water colours which cannot be lent out. I think that unless this fact is mentioned, the Committee might come to a wrong conclusion, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not want that to happen.

Mr. Brooke

I would not wish to mislead the Committee in any way, but I must say that I have not been made aware of any pressure from the Tate Gallery to the effect that the 1935 powers should be withdrawn owing to the fact that the gallery feel that it is being starved of pictures by these powers to tend abroad.

I now wish to refer back to what seemed to me to be a powerful speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) during the Second Reading, when he stressed the importance of cultural propaganda and urged that it should be possible to decorate British embassies abroad with the kind of pictures—both British and foreign pictures—which one would expect to see in a gracious British house in this country.

I myself think that that is a matter of very great importance. I should be extremely sorry were it made necessary to withdraw pictures that are at present abroad. I should like to give the assurance—and perhaps on this assurance the Committee might be willing to come to a decision on this—that, if the Clause goes through as it stands, there is no reason whatever to expect any spectacular increase in the number of pictures lent abroad by the trustees. As I say, there are 79 pictures abroad at present; there are some 3,000 which are not on view in the Tate and the National Galleries. Because of those proportions I trust that the Committee will agree that there will be no danger in these lending powers.

3.0 p.m.

Mr. Wyatt

Before the Minister sits down, will he say a word about the works of living artists being displayed, and not those of dead artists only?

Mr. Brooke

I think one must leave that kind of thing to the trustees of the galleries. I return to that principle. If the trustees of the Tate Gallery have no feeling for art they will reach wrong decisions, but I cannot help thinking that the trustees, who, I have no doubt, will also read this debate, will be able to reach sensible conclusions as to which pictures are suitable to be sent abroad. And that is the only point at issue.

Dr. Stross

I am very sorry that the Financial Secretary does not find it possible to accept the Amendment. I think that he should be careful not to misunderstand our feeling. In no way whatsoever do we desire that the embassies, or the houses of colonial governors, should be stripped of anything. On the contrary, we want them to have —but from the Minister's pool rather than from this source—the best available furnishings of every type, so that they should be able, in as dignified a way as possible, to reflect in the eyes of peoples abroad the dignity of our nation.

I do not think that in his answer the Financial Secretary has been as fair as he might have been. He knows that the trustees are not anxious for these powers and would welcome not being able to furnish those embassies and governors' houses from the collections. Knowing that, he should be prepared to give further consideration to the matter. The trustees have had their present powers for only 19 years, which is not long out of the 800 or 900 years during which we have been legislating in this House. They do not like those powers because they do not believe that there is true accessibility when the treasures are housed in this way.

If we are to send things out of the country—as we should and must—it should be to show abroad our way of life. That is better done by regular displays and exhibitions in the great cities abroad, under conditions governed by all the care shown in the Bill. But we must send good, not just second- and third-rate things. As for the masterpieces in the embassies and on the walls of the homes of colonial governors, why should not the Minister be entrusted, with some guidance, to buy the masterpieces of the future? If it is not enough that he should be advised by his curator —and he has one—there are other means by which he could be helped to pick the masterpieces of the future, just as Lane made his most remarkable collection before other people thought of doing it. We ask that the powers should be given to the Minister, that the pool should be made deeper and larger and that the Minister should be given money for this purpose.

Climatic conditions are important. My Steinway comes from Hamburg, but in America and Canada one cannot have that make of piano because the climate there does not suit it. In the same way, everyone knows that certain climates do not suit paintings of any type, so one has to be careful what is sent abroad. One should send sculptures, woodcarvings and tapestries.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

My hon. Friend spoke so closely to a recent experience of mine that perhaps the House will bear with me, particularly when I say that, because of the lateness of the hour, I do not intend to move the two later Amendments standing in my name.

I have just visited a number of places, including the residences of two colonial governors. I went with the good wishes of the former Minister of Works, and with instructions to observe and to report. I want to tell the Committee that I am absolutely convinced, along with my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary and my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe), who spoke in the Second Reading debate, that it is of vital consequence that the selection of pictures is done with care when they are sent to these places, where the effect in propaganda for the British way of life, for our unsurpassed knowledge and experience in diplomacy and good relations with other countries, will be paramount in the years to come.

They can and must be rearranged, and we must take care to select the kind of thing that interests the nationals of those countries in which these residencies are situated, because in that way a great deal can be done for the cause of Britain. I am absolutely convinced that if the selection is wise and judicious——

Mr. Wyatt

Is the noble Lord suggesting that we should send masterpieces abroad, or that we should only send the sort of pictures which may be in store?

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

In the British Embassy at Athens, there is a fine portarit of Lord Byron in Circassian dress, a full-length portrait of his daughter and a good Turner. All the Greeks who go to the Embassy, and all the Turks who go to the Turkish Embassy, where the same sort of thing is taking place, are immensely struck with the interest and importance of these pictures. I am quite certain that, provided it is not done on the scale on which Mussolini attempted to do it, it will redound greatly to our advantage.

I only want to repeat what is, in fact, the point of my Amendment, that in so far as these pictures are hung in embassies and colonial residences for the sake of improving relationships and getting local nationals interested, and though they may be exposed to some danger, it is absolutely right to provide the opportunity in subsection (5) for students to see them at reasonable times.

I ask my hon. Friend to say who is the authority mentioned in subsection (5). Is it the Minister of Works, or the gallery from which the picture goes? I would suggest that if the authority is the colonial governor or the ambassador in the embassy concerned, I do not see how my hon. Friend can possibly expect him to discharge the duty which is laid upon him in that subsection. On Second Reading, I mentioned the case of a Colony in a state of serious disturbance or an embassy in a country with which temporarily we had very bad relations, and I am seriously worried about the duties laid down of the right of inspecting, and, if there was time I should try to press this matter——

The Deputy-Chairman

We are dealing only with subsection (5).

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

I understood, Sir Rhys, that you had actually called for discussion along with this Amendment the Amendment standing in my name to page 3, line 36, and I am precisely on that point.

However, I have finished what I was going to say, and there is no time to do anything more about it, but it shows what a pity it is that a Bill of this importance, which has interested the Committee so greatly, should arrive from another place ten months after it was discussed there and right at the tail end of the Session.

Mr. Hector Hughes

I join with other hon. Members in hoping that the Minister will reconsider his refusal to accept the Amendment. I am in favour of the trustees having power to lend, but those powers ought to be limited to the interests of the British public. The Minister's reply seems to be based upon a fallacy. He says that many pictures in these galleries are not on public view. The answer is to put them on public view, but not by sending them further away, so that the British public will have even less opportunity to view them. The powers granted by the Clause are far too comprehensive.

Mr. Wyatt

There seems to be some confusion of thought among those who resist the Amendment as to why they resist it. On the one hand, it is said that there are many surplus pictures at the Tate and National Galleries which would otherwise not be seen, and, on the other hand, it is said to be important that major works of art in our possession should be sent abroad. On which of these two aspects of the case does the Minister stand?

He says that at present 73 works of art belonging to the Tate Gallery are in various embassies. He also says that there are about 2,000 pictures in the vaults of the Tate Gallery which cannot be seen, and if the 73 pictures are brought back from our embassies abroad they will only add to the problem of the trustees of the Tate Gallery, who are so short of exhibition space that they will have to put the 73 pictures down into the vaults.

Does the Minister mean that? There is a very fine Turner in the British Embassy in Paris. Does he think that if that were brought back it would be stuck in the vaults of the Tate Gallery? Is he asking for powers to lend abroad pictures which are not major works of art, or is he asking for those powers in respect of pictures which are major works of art? He cannot rest his argument upon both cases.

Mr. K. Robinson

The Minister has said that the powers existing under the Act of 1935 have worked smoothly and satisfactorily, but is he aware that there has arrived back into this country—or it may be that it is still on its way back—from a British embassy in a continental capital a Turner landscape which has been seriously damaged and which appears to have had a foot put through it? Does he really regard that as an example of the smooth working of these powers?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I rise only to say that we are not altogether happy about leaving this provision as it is. My mind is far from clear as to which way I should vote.

Mr. Wyatt

I would point out to my right hon. Friend that his name is on the Notice Paper in support of the Amendment.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I was about to refer to that fact. In association with this Amendment we are taking another in the names of my hon. Friends and myself and one in the name of the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). It was his Amendment of which I was thinking in particular. I am not quite sure what the Committee should do for the best in this matter. I therefore rise to ask the Financial Secretary whether he will make it clear that the trustees share the view which he has expressed.

We know that the Act of 1935 is to be repealed, and that, as he said, the provisions of that Act have worked well, and there appears to be no complaint, but it would be interesting to Members on both sides of the Committee to hear from him whether this provision in the Bill was discussed with the trustees and is in the Bill because they wished it, or whether any of them expressed doubts about whether it should be in the Bill.

3.15 p.m.

Mr. H. Brooke

I hope it will be possible for us to reach a conclusion on this Amendment, because I think that the gap between us is much smaller than some people have imagined. Let me say at once in reply to the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson), that I am aware that during the 19 years in which these overseas lending powers have existed one picture and one only has suffered serious damage. It is not inconceivable that pictures lent to other museums or public buildings in this country may suffer accidental damage from time to time.

I want to stress that complete power will remain with the trustees under the Clause as it stands. No one can compel the trustees to lend any picture abroad which they think ought not to be so lent. I recognise that if Parliament gives them these powers the Committee will expect that some of the pictures shall be lent abroad, and I can assure the Committee that on that matter of principle the trustees raise no objection, and that the trustees of both galleries are perfectly willing to work the Clause as it stands. What the trustees would strongly object to would be to be told by either the Treasury or the Minister of Works that they had to lend a certain picture abroad which they thought ought not to go.

I want to assure the Committee that there is no such power of compulsion whatever in the Clause. In view of the successful results of these powers during these last 19 years, and of all the expressions of opinion to which we have listened today and a week ago, and of the certainty, as I say, that no picture can be taken out of this country except with the consent of the trustees, I hope that the hon. Member may feel inclined to withdraw the Amendment, or, at any rate, not to ask the Committee to divide upon it.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Grimond

I beg to move, in page 3, line 14, to leave out "by a foreign artist."

The point of this Amendment is an extremely simple one. By this subsection a Statutory Instrument must be approved by the House before a work of art executed by a foreigner before 1700 can be sent abroad. All I want to know is, why is that special protection given only to works of art executed by foreign artists? Far be it from me to be jingoistic in this matter, but surely works of art executed by British artists before that date painted on panels may suffer damage, too, and surely, also, they are of great interest and beauty? There are some works of art executed by early foreign artists which, if it came to a competition with early British artists would come off second best. I see no reason why the protection afforded to the works of foreign artists, if it is necessary at all, which is a different question which I am not arguing at the moment, should not also be afforded to works by British artists.

Mr. Hollis

I wish in only two sentences to support the Amendment. I understand that the reason for this protection is that pictures painted before a certain date are peculiarly liable to damage, but, if that is so, is there any reason why those by British artists are likely to suffer less than those by foreign artists? There may be some reason for this difference of treatment, but at first sight there would appear to be none.

Mr. H. Brooke

This is a very reasonable question that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) has raised. I think the Committee would be interested to know that there are only 19 British pictures painted before 1700 at the Tate Gallery and only three at the National Gallery. To the best of my knowledge, none of them has ever been lent abroad. If the hon. Member's Amendment were to be carried we should be restricting the lending powers of the trustees because, since 1935, they have had the power to lend these older pictures abroad. They have not thought fit to use those powers, and as in this Bill we are trying to extend rather than restrict, I suggest that there is no really strong case to take away any of the existing powers that have been in the hands of the trustees since 1935. I quite agree that the position looks a little anomalous and puzzling, but on the assurance that there are only 22 pictures in question, I hope that the Committee will agree to a little untidiness and to leaving things as they are.

Mr. E. Fletcher

That is a most unsatisfactory reply. The fact that there are only 22 pictures seems to make it all the more desirable, not less desirable, that the trustees of the National and Tate Galleries should not be able to send this limited number of pictures abroad without the protection afforded to pictures by foreign artists. In addition to the reasons given by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), it is not only on questions of artistic merit but on a question of historical importance that I should like to support this Amendment, which is most important.

This very limited number of pictures painted by British artists before 1700 has not only artistic importance but historical importance. It seems both invidious on the question of principle and contrary to all argument of historic merit that there should be this unjustifiable differentiation between pictures painted by British artists and pictures painted by foreign artists.

I thought the Financial Secretary's argument most unsatisfactory and most inconclusive. I attach great importance to this Amendment, and I urge the Financial Secretary to reflect again before trying to dismiss this Amendment in a cavalier fashion. I hope the Committee will insist that pictures in the Tate or in the National Galleries painted by British artists before 1700 are based on precisely the same position as regards pictures painted by foreign artists.

If there be a case for sending them abroad, then the provisions of the Clause, with the requirement of an order approved by Parliament, will apply. But there are only 22. Why should any of this very small number, which because of its limited number has an added historical value, be lent abroad without the safeguard of an order approved by this House? There is a much larger number of pictures painted by foreign artists.

It would be quite easy for the Government to accept this Amendment. It would put pictures painted by British artists on the same basis of equality as those painted by foreign artists. I hope that my hon. Friend and his seconder will not be content with the Financial Secretary's cursory and rather derisory argument, but will insist on pressing this to a Division.

Mr. H. Brooke

I have sat here for 4½ hours and this is the first time it has been suggested that any of my arguments has been cursory or derisory. I have been doing my best to give full attention to the Amendments. As far as I am aware, nobody has suggested, up to this point, that we should limit the powers which the trustees have possessed for the last 19 years. As I have pointed out, to the best of my knowledge they have never lent ony of these 22 pictures. It seems to me that in a sense we should be casting a reflection on the trustees if we said, "Although Parliament has let you have those powers for 19 years and although by common consent you have not abused them, nevertheless they should now be restricted." I most strongly urge that there is no point between us on this matter.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

Is it suggested that the trustees have abused their power of lending pictures by foreign artists painted before 1700?

Mr. Brooke

They have never had power to lend abroad such paintings by foreign artists.

Mr. Strauss

I think the Financial Secretary agrees that the position which arises under the Clause is anomalous. We all accept that. He says he does not want to alter it because it might appear to be an insult to the trustees.

Mr. Brooke

I spoke about tidiness.

Mr. Strauss

I want to protest to the hon. Member: he has been exceedingly courteous and helpful in the way in which he has addressed the Committee, but the fact is that if we do what the Government ask we cannot make any Amendments to the Bill. The Government want this Bill through all its stages today, Report as well as Third Reading, and this puts the House in an unfair position.

It is because of his desire to follow that time-table, which he cannot control and which his Whips have asked him to follow, that the hon. Member has been so resistant to many of the Amendments, including this Amendment, which I regard as a reasonable Amendment. The other House discussed this Bill for something like 12 hours and were very interested in it. We are very interested in many aspects of the Bill. We should like to see some Amendments which have been moved, and others which will be moved, properly considered by the Government and accepted, as were so many Amendments in another place.

I ask the Financial Secretary to consider this and other Amendments as reasonable and proper Amendments which will make the Bill far more tidy. The shape of the subsection as it appears at the moment arises from the manner in which it was discussed in another place. As a consequence of the way in which these matters were discussed, we have a messy situation with a number of corn-promises. I suggest that it is very unsatisfactory and I appeal to the Financial Secretary to reconsider the matter in order to help make the Bill more tidy. If we take this step to make the Bill more tidy it will not be an insult to the trustees. I appeal to him to reconsider the question and to tell us, possibly on Report on another occasion, whether he will accept some of the Amendments.

3.30 p.m.

Mr. N. Nicolson

I want to support the Financial Secretary on this, because his point of view is supported by all those who have an interest in retaining as many pictures as possible in this country. The art experts do not think it necessary to alter this Clause in the way in which hon. Members have suggested. Perhaps I may give the reasons.

The main distinction is between the materials upon which those pictures are painted—the distinction between canvas and panel. Panel rapidly deteriorates through climatic change, whereas canvas does not. Of the 19 pictures mentioned by my hon. Friend, only four in the present national collection are painted upon panel and one is the Wilton Diptych. No trustee in his senses would ever send that or any of the other three pictures abroad to a foreign exhibition, because he must know that they would immediately deteriorate. The others are canvases by Sir Peter Lely and other British artists, who, to be frank, are not in the same class.

Mr. Ede

He was a Dutchman.

Mr. Nicolson

We regard him as an Englishman unlike, for example, Vandyke and Holbein. Sir Peter Lely and others like him are not accepted as artists of first rate and, in any case, their canvases could safely be sent abroad. That is why I support my hon. Friend's view.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, East)

I am sure that no one would suggest that the Financial Secretary is not trying to assist the Committee, but his argument gets less convincing each time he speaks. We were told earlier that we must not alter the Bill because another place would not like that, and later, that we must not alter the Bill because it would involve altering an Act of Parliament passed 19 years ago. Now we are told that we must not do so because it would hurt the feelings of the trustees of the Tate Gallery.

This is not merely an artistic point. There is a point of Parliamentary procedure. A very reasonable suggestion has been made to the Financial Secretary, and the more we hear about it the more reasonable it seems to be. He has now explained that the issue is really concerned with four pictures for which there are special reasons against lending them abroad. What we are saying is that these pictures, which by the fewness of their number are exceptionally precious, should not be lent abroad without special Parliamentary procedure.

The hon. Gentleman said that people expert in artistic knowledge did not consider such a provision necessary, but, with great respect, I say that this is not a question on which the opinions of art experts are relevant. This is a question of Parliamentary procedure. When we propose to give to anybody, a Minister of the Crown or anyone else, the power to do something which is of great importance, the House considers what safeguards should surround it. How many times have we heard that argument advanced when it has been proposed by Act of Parliament to give powers to a Minister?

Always, such proposals are scrutinised most carefully by this House. We make haste to explain that we have the very highest opinions of the particular Minister in office at the time, but that Parliament finds it necessary to safeguard against there being in the future somebody in that position in whom they might not have confidence.

The Financial Secretary has repeatedly said that if ever we should have persons administering the affairs of the Tate Gallery who were not suitable to do so, they ought to be removed. But it is just conceivable that such a situation might arise and a foolish judgment might be made about some of these very few pictures. It would then be too late for the House to deal with something which had been neglected.

There is an additional reason why this is not a reflection on the trustees of the Tate Gallery. We do not legislate on these matters every week or every month. It is only very rarely that Parliament has to do the job of considering what the law shall be, and when such an opportunity comes it ought to consider every reasonable contingency that may arise during the next two or three decades.

It may be urged that we are perhaps being a little over-cautious in this matter —but is that a fault? If this Amendment were accepted by the Financial Secretary, it might prevent harm being done, and it could not possibly do any harm of itself. If a situation arose in which the Tate Gallery wanted to lend any of these pictures abroad, it would have to go through the safeguard provided by this House, just as Ministers of the Crown have to do on certain other important occasions.

Is it too much to ask that they should have to do that? We know the Financial Secretary's difficulty, but surely he sees that no possible harm could be done to the purposes of the Bill and that some harm might be diverted if he would accept the Amendment.

Mr. Brooke

I am anxious to be absolutely fair in every way to the Committee. I have listened to the debate with great interest and attention. I should be the last to question the supremacy of Parliament in any matters, whether artistic or otherwise.

This is not the first occasion when Parliament has considered this matter. Parliament considered in 1935 this whole question of lending the British pictures overseas and came, I believe, to a unanimous conclusion that there was no need to put in any restriction of this kind in respect of the older pictures. If there had been some movement of opinion in the artistic world between 1935 and 1954 I could see a powerful reason for altering the law now and imposing a restriction.

I can say—and the expert evidence of my hon. Friend the Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) supports me—that there is no demand from the artistic world or from the connoisseurs of art that any such statutory restriction should be imposed. The powers have not been abused, and nobody believes that they will be abused. My hon. Friend has explained that there is a difference in the nature of the old pictures by reason of the material on which they are painted.

I am in no sense trying to hasten or push the Committee against its will, but am simply asking that a decision of Parliament, taken with open eyes, 19 years ago, should not be now changed seeing that there is no artistic pressure whatever or pressure of public opinion in favour of any such change.

Mr. Hollis

May I call the attention of my hon. Friend to the fact that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and I have an Amendment next on the Notice Paper to alter the word "seventeen" to "sixteen." Would he consider that Amendment along with the one we are now discussing?

Mr. G. R. Strauss

The Parliamentary Secretary says that he does not want to impose any new restriction. I cannot understand him. The whole Clause is an imposition of a new restriction and it is an exception to that restriction that we are discussing. When he says that he does not want to impose any restriction which has not existed since 1935, he is really, I say with all respect, talking nonsense. The subsection is a restriction.

Mr. Brooke

I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman appreciates that Clause 4 gives entirely new powers as regards the lending of foreign pictures abroad, powers which have never existed before. Complete powers for the lending of British pictures have existed before.

Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

I have listened to the discussion on a number of these Amendments and on most of them I have found it rather difficult to make up my mind. Now I am completely puzzled by the Minister's defence. I am not at all satisfied with what he said. He talked about resentment in ant circles to Parliament's imposing restrictions.

Mr. Brooke

There are no restrictions.

Mr. Hynd

Then I do not know what the hon. Gentleman was talking about. He said that there would be resentment in art circles if we imposed any such restrictions.

Mr. Brooke

I said that there had been no demand from art circles for such restrictions.

Mr. Hynd

The hon. Gentleman indicated that there would be resentment against the imposing of any restrictions. If that is not his argument I shall be very pleased. It was that which brought me to my feet. What is proposed in this Amendment is, in fact, merely that we should recognise a situation which has been accepted by the Tate Gallery trustees and art circles generally, because the Minister himself said that for a long time they have possessed these powers to lend ancient British masterpieces abroad. That has not been done, and the reason given by those more qualified to speak on art than I am is because of the small number of these treasures that we have it would be unwise to allow them to be sent abroad inasmuch as they might deteriorate or for some other such reason. Therefore, they have not done it.

I can hardly see how any one of the Tate Gallery trustees or anyone else could resent the fact that Parliament took note of that view and attitude and, therefore, tidied up the Clause. Why the Minister, in the light of the fact that the trustees have not seen fit to exercise powers which we gave them many years ago, should insist on the Clause remaining, in his own words, untidy, I cannot appreciate. Unless a more satisfactory reason is given I hope my hon. Friends will press this Amendment to a Division in order to express our dissatisfaction.

Mr. Dugdale

I should like to address my remarks to a rather different aspect of the question. British pictures are apparently not to be protected, and the Financial Secretary has given certain reasons why they should not have that protection while the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) has given us further interesting reasons. What I do not understand is why there has to be this great protection for foreign artists whose work was done before a certain date. It means, in effect, that greater protection will be given to second-rate Dutch or Italian 16th or 17th century pictures than there is even to the most important British picture.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

This is not protection. This gives added freedom. In the past, foreign pictures were not sent abroad at all because permission had not been given. Now the power is to be given.

Mr. Dugdale

I quite realise that, but greater protection is being given relative to the protection given to British pictures. If the hon. Member would prefer it, greater freedom is being given for British pictures than is given under this Bill for foreign pictures. I do not see why that should be. After all, if we want to get people to send pictures to this country surely we have to be willing to send pictures to them.

How can we expect the Italians, the French, the Dutch or the Belgians to send us their pictures for show here, which in the past have given us immense pleasure, if we are not prepared to send foreign pictures painted before 1700? I cannot understand why this should be, but I should like to have a further explanation as to why protection is given to foreign pictures and not to British pictures.

Mr. Hector Hughes

The Minister has given careful, continuous and concentrated attention to the various Amendments put before the Committee, but there has been strange similarity in his replies. He seems to be the traditionalist in excelsis. He thinks that because a certain thing has existed for a long time, therefore, it should continue to exist and an Amendment to improve it should be rejected.

As the hon. Gentleman has advanced this line of reply from time to time would he go so far as to say that because murder has existed from the time of Cain it should continue to exist? I am quite aware that that argument hardly comes within the terms of the Amendment, but the Minister has said that because something happened 19 years ago we should not change it. Only a few moments ago he told us that this matter was decided by Parliament in 1935 and, therefore, we should not change it, but he has not addressed himself to the real point in this Amendment, the difference between the foreign and British artist.

The hon. Gentleman has not explained why there should be a special prohibition against lending pictures by foreign artists and no similar prohibition in the case of British artists. That is the point to which I invite him now to address himself before we divide on this Amendment.

3.45 p.m.

Mr. H. Brooke

I find myself in some difficulty in responding to the last request because I cannot argue the suitability of the year 1700 when it is covered by an Amendment which has not been reached and which I must not anticipate. Nor can I go into the question of Cain and Abel, although, if we discuss this Amendment much further, it is much more likely to be a question of Methuselah.

Mr. Hollis

On a point of order. Would it not be possible, Sir Rhys, in order to save time, for us to discuss the two Amendments together?

The Deputy-Chairman

It has not been done, but I should be in the hands of the Committee about that.

Mr. Brooke

Let me, in passing, explain that I made no reference to the possibility of anybody outside feeling resentment. I simply made the point that I do not think we should alter an existing Act of Parliament except on some cogent argument as to the working of that Act, and the experience of the last 19 years has shown no cause why we should restrict existing powers.

Both in the Second Reading debate and today I have made no secret of the fact that, on principle, I am in favour of giving rather wider lending powers to the trustees and relying upon their discretion. The main purpose of Clause 4 is to grant the trustees powers which they have not possessed before to lend abroad certain foreign pictures under suitable safeguards. It would be inconsistent with the principle I have laid down that we should, by a side wind, restrict existing lending powers which the trustees have not abused and which nobody, so far as I am aware, until this afternoon in the Committee has suggested that they might abuse. I hope that we shall be progressive and not reactionary and that we shall not impose artificial restrictions on the powers of the trustees.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The hon. Gentleman has a very good name for being able to put a case with lucidity and point but—perhaps it is because he has not yet had anything to eat—as the debate has proceeded, and Amendment has followed Amendment, his arguments have been less and less cogent. I find what he has just said difficult to follow and impossible to accept.

So far as I can see, we are not here trying to impose additional restrictions. We are trying to impose such restrictions as are necessary to make sure that certain conditions are satisfied when works of art are lent abroad. All we on this side are asking is that these restrictions should not be selective, but that both foreign and British artists should be put on the same level. That is a reasonable request, and I am sorry to tell the hon. Gentleman that we feel it is so reasonable that we must ask the Committee to divide on it.

Dr. Stross

You will notice, Sir Rhys, that when we have divided we have not done so on a political basis but have gone into each others' Lobbies. I rise to tell my right hon. Friend the Member

Division No. 229.] AYES [3.52 p.m.
Aitken, W. T. Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Nugent, G. R. H.
Baldwin, A. E. Heath, Edward O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
Bennett, F. M (Reading, N.) Higgs, J. M. C. Page, R. G.
Bishop, F. P. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Partridge, E.
Boyle, Sir Edward Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Rees-Davies, W. R.
Braine, B. R. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Ridsdale, J. E.
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Hughes-Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Robertson, Sir David
Browne, Jack (Govan) Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Russell, R. S.
Burden, F. F. A. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Spearman, A. C. M.
Campbell, Sir David Kerby, Capt. H. B Stevens, Geoffrey
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Linstead, Sir H. N. Stross, Dr. Barnett
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. Teeling, W.
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Digby, S Wingfield McCallum, Major D. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Wall, Major Patrick
Fell, A. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Wellwood, W.
Fisher, Nigel Maitland, Patrick (Lanark) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Foster, John Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir Reginald TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Mellor, Sir John Mr. Richard Thompson and
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.) Mr. Edward Wakefield.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Deer, G. Johnson, James (Rugby) Strauss, Rt. Hon, George (Vauxhall)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Jones, Rt Hon. A. Creech Wallace, H. W.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Hale, Leslie Mitchison, G. R. Willis, E. G.
Hal, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.
Herbison Miss M. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. TELLLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Mr. Grimond and Mr. Eric Fletcher.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Silverman, Julius (Erdington)

for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) that I do not agree with him, but agree with the Financial Secretary. No one will be surprised at this kind of division of opinion in the Committee on a subject of this kind.

I believe that the matter is straightforward, namely, that once we did not lend anything at all. Then we got to the pitch when we lent British pictures. Now we have an Amendment which, by leaving out some words, will appear to enable us to lend paintings by foreign artists which were painted before a certain date. Everybody must realise that we are trying to protect certain select masterpieces which will crumble and dissipate if they are sent abroad or allowed to travel, or are taken out of the special atmosphere in which they now exist and are allowed to travel in the ordinary atmosphere.

The trustees have succeeded a great deal in bringing pressure to bear. When the Bill was introduced in another place it was quite different. It was then that the safeguard provided by the date 1700 was provided. I agree with that and I hope that we shall not divide on the Amendment.

Question put, "That the words 'by a foreign artist' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 66; Noes, 23.

It being Four o'Clock The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.