HC Deb 10 November 1954 vol 532 cc1317-45

9.28 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)

I beg to move, in page 3, line 15, after "hundred," to insert: or exceeds in value twenty thousand pounds in the case of works of art loaned to exhibitions abroad, or five thousand pounds in the case of works of art loaned to official residences. Whenever I have been able to intervene in this debate I have attempted to persuade my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to introduce into the Bill greater clarification of the type of picture which the trustees of the Tate and National Galleries may loan to exhibitions abroad or to our embassies. I have so far not been very successful, but I hope that in the concluding stages this evening I and other hon. Members may pursuade my hon. Friend to accept some of our suggestions.

9.30 p.m.

My reasons are three. First, I think that a Bill of this sort should embody the intentions of Parliament so that they will be as clear in 20 or 50 years' time as they are to us today. Secondly, we should guard our national treasures against the excesses of future trustees who may be less scrupulous than the trustees of today. In the third place, I believe it is our duty to put into the hands of the present and future trustees certain safeguards against the exorbitant demands of the Ministry of Works or of foreign exhibitors. The best way that we can do that is to arm them with the most effective answer of all, namely, an Act of Parliament which specifically forbids them to loan our best pictures abroad.

The Bill has come to us from another place in a rather strange state, and this applies particularly to Clause 4. Under pressure in another place, the Government agreed to insert one or two modifications and clarifications of their original intentions. We have, for instance, the date 1700. which was under discussion when we last debated the Bill, and we have one or two indications to the trustees that they should give particular care to fragility and the possibility of damage to certain pictures before agreeing to loan them abroad. If the Government have agreed to introduce these modifications, they should go a little further. As far as I have been able to discover, the trustees themselves are not at all happy about being given such very wide powers.

A short time ago, several Members on both sides of the Committee received a memorandum which was sent to us anonymously but dealt in great detail with the Clauses of the Bill which we are now discussing. I and many other hon. Members happen to know who wrote the memorandum, but, obviously, it would be improper for me to give his name here. All I can say is that it was written by a man who fully represents the point of view of those experts who know a great deal more about our paintings than any of us here knows and who, perhaps, care even more about them.

In support of my Amendment, I should like to read a short extract from the memorandum: It is to be hoped that the Government will seriously consider accepting limitations which might go some way towards meeting the present Trustees' justifiable dislike of these powers and also the anxiety felt by informed public opinion. With a little more goodwill, it should be simple enough to amend the Bill in order to cover this important point. My Amendment is just one way in which these limitations might be introduced, Other ways will be proposed by other hon. Members during the evening. The proposal which I have in mind would make it impossible for any picture above a certain value to be loaned to a foreign exhibition or for any picture above a slightly lower value to go to any of our embassies or residences abroad.

It is obviously right that the better, and, therefore, the more valuable, pictures should be loanable to the galleries and exhibitions abroad and that loans to embassies and residences should be confined to the less valuable pictures.

The intention of the whole Committee, if I have it rightly, is that our masterpieces should not be loaned abroad. I propose to insert my new words in such a way that it will still be possible for masterpieces above the values which I have mentioned to be loaned if the Treasury and Parliament consent to it. For instance, it would be possible for the National Gallery, if it so wished, to lend its famous Giorgione to the Giorgione Exhibition to be held in Venice next summer.

I will anticipate one objection to the Amendment. I know I shall be told that it is very difficult for any valuer of pictures to put a price upon a painting and that the value of paintings in monetary terms is apt to vary even from year to year as the popularity of the particular painter waxes or wanes. I know that that is true; but this is the point which I wish to emphasise.

I want to protect the great masterpieces by this Amendment, and their value does not wax or wane, and will certainly not sink down to the figures of £20,000 or £5,000 which I have suggested in the Amendment. Usually, the value of pictures rises rather than falls. The art critics may decide that a painter whom they have hitherto regarded as second-rate is first-rate, and the value of his pictures may soar even above the values which I have particularly mentioned.

Mistakes will be made. Valuations will be wrong. The trustees may even find themselves handicapped by the Clause. All that is perfectly true; but if we do not put this safeguard in the Bill there will be no indication whatever that we, as a House of Commons, are unwilling to allow our pictures of exceptional value to go abroad for one purpose or another. Do not let us risk these pictures to the fallible memory and unpredictable judgments of future trustees of the Tate and National Galleries; let us fortify the trustees, present and future, against all but the most modest and reasonable demands of the galleries and the Ministry of Works.

Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson), at the end of his speech, put his finger upon what seems to be the real difficulty. I approve of the idea behind his Amendment but there is a real difficulty in its practical application.

The hon. Member began by saying that he wished to make the Clause more definite than it is. The phrase "the year seventeen hundred" is as definite as one could wish anything to be; but the hon. Member proceeds to add something which is indefinite. He proposes that the pictures which exceed in value £20,000 —in the case of exhibitions abroad—and £5,000—in the case of official residences —should be dealt with in a certain way.

The practical question is how the values are to be arrived at, and when they are to be arrived at. Are they to be calculated as at the time the picture was painted or at the present time? How and when are they to be calculated? For it to be clear and conclusive, it would be necessary for the Committee to put into the Clause some indication of the machinery to be employed to arrive at the value, and the time when the value is to be calculated. I should like to see an Amendment such as this embodied in the Clause, but it seems to me that the way in which the hon. Gentleman proposes to do it is not really the practical way.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Henry Brooke)

I think we all have a good deal of sympathy with the generality of the purpose which my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) has in mind, and if the trustees decided to make some such rule as this for their own guidance, I am sure that neither this Committee nor the Government would disapprove.

I must, however, make these two points. First, it seems to me unnecessary to write into the Bill safeguards against the trustees doing things which they might well themselves consider it indiscreet to do. One must credit the trustees with a considerable degree of discretion; otherwise, they would not hold their positions. For that reason, I have indicated that I am not anxious to write into the Bill any further limitations unless they concern matters of public interest which the trustees might not themselves be the best persons to decide. As the trustees are charged with the duty of looking after the pictures, they will surely have in their own minds just the kind of safeguarding conditions to which my hon. Friend has referred.

In addition, I am bound to say that there is, in the wording of the Amendment, exactly that kind of difficulty, to which the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) has referred. This Amendment calls upon somebody to determine the current value of extremely valuable pictures, and there might be a considerable margin of difference of opinion on that subject. We might get into complicated arguments about the proper interpretation or the proper application of a form of words in an Act of Parliament, and that, I am sure will be something making the task more difficult for everybody.

I should like also to suggest to my hon. Friend that, if we were to put in these words here, it might suggest that Parliament desired very special, even predominating, attention to be given to these conditions, but, of course, there are other conditions that are important—the condition of the picture, the suitability of the picture to travel, the importance of a particular picture being accessible to the British public, and so forth.

For all these reasons, I must advise the Committee that, in the view of the Government, it would not improve the Bill to insert these words, and I think it is only fair to say that I have received no suggestion from the trustees of either gallery that they would wish to be protected from the Ministry of Works or the Treasury by such words as these. I should like to remind the Committee that, in Clause 4 as it stands, it is the trustees who have the last word on any suggested loan, and that neither the Ministry of Works, the Treasury nor anybody else can compel the trustees to lend pictures which they do not wish to lend.

In these circumstances, I hope I have satisfied my hon. Friend that I have given attention to his purpose, but that I do not think that this would be the right way of achieving it.

Mr. N. Nicolson

I do not want to divide the Committee against the advice of my hon. Friend, and I will not do so, but there was one flaw in his argument, if I may put it like that, which I do not quite understand, but which will be of great relevance to the debate on other Amendments. He suggested that the trustees, being trustworthy, did not need advice from the House of Commons. What, I then ask him, is the object of subsections (2) and (4, a and b) of the Clause? Surely they are there partly to give instruction and partly to give advice to the trustees, and to give them some security against the pressure and the blandishments of the Ministry of Works, and so on.

9.45 p.m.

I am only suggesting inserting a provision exactly in tune with what is already in the Bill. Later, other hon. Members will suggest provisions of a similar type. I see the force of the argument about the difficulty of valuation, but it does not undercut my main argument, which I shall advance in another way on a later Clause, if I catch the eye of the Chairman. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. H. Brooke

I beg to move, in page 3, line 18, at the end, to insert: (3) The number of paintings or other works of art which are at any time on loan under paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of this section shall not exceed—

  1. (a) in the case of the National Gallery, one-twentieth of the total number of works of art then vested in the Trustees of that Gallery, and
  2. (b) in the case of the Tate Gallery, one-tenth of the total number of works of art then vested in the Trustees of that Gallery,
but the Treasury may from time to time by order increase or reduce either of the fractions mentioned in the foregoing paragraphs. An order under this subsection shall be made by statutory instrument a draft of which has been laid before Parliament, and an order increasing either of the said fractions shall not be made unless the draft has been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament. I move this manuscript Amendment in rather special circumstances. Copies of this Amendment have been available in the Vote Office for some hours, and I took special steps to make sure that they were in the hands of some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It may be for the convenience of the Committee if we were to discuss at the same time the two Amendments on the same subject in the name of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) in page 3, line 21, at the end, to insert: Provided that, at any given time, such loans shall not exceed thirty in the case of the National Gallery, or one hundred and twenty in the case of the Tate Gallery. and, in page 3, line 21, at the end, to insert: Provided that, at any given time, such loans from either Gallery shall not exceed in number one-twentieth part of the total number of oil paintings belonging to that Gallery. I would include also the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson), in page 3, line 30, at the end, to insert: (c) that not more than one hundred and twenty works of art shall be absent from the Tate Gallery, and not more than thirty from the National Gallery, at any one time.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

The hon. Gentleman was good enough to let us see advance copies of the manuscript Amendment. We have considered it, and we are willing that the Amendments that he has just mentioned should be considered with the one that he has moved.

Mr. Brooke

I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I very much dislike moving a manuscript Amendment in connection with the first Bill of which I have had charge, but the circumstances are rather special. Up to today, the second Amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman, in page 3, line 21, had not appeared. It appeared on the Notice Paper this morning and as soon as I saw it I considered it very carefully.

I have been able to judge by the debates we had here last Friday that this type of question was one to which hon. and right hon. Members on both sides attached importance. I had made up my mind that the first Amendment to Clause 4, page 3, line 21 was too restricted and inflexible and I was bound to resist it. However, when I saw this morning the second Amendment, it seemed to me to suggest a much more practical way of seeing whether we could arrive at an arrangement that would be generally satisfactory and would meet the varying views which had been foreshadowed during our Friday debate. I could not accept the new Amendment as it stood, and that is why I have taken the exceptional step of moving the manuscript Amendment which, in fact, embodies the first part of the Amendment on the Notice Paper and makes the other part of it. I hope, more workable and more useful.

If I may examine the starred Amendment and my own together, they both agree that loans from the National Gallery should be limited to one-twentieth of the total number of works in that gallery. For the information of the Committee, the total number there is about 1,800, and, therefore, one-twentieth would permit the loan of about 90 works. The present number on loan is 34 and I have taken over the suggested figure of one-twentieth from the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman.

In the case of the Tate Gallery, if his Amendment had been accepted as it stood, certain difficulties would have arisen. His Amendment suggested limitation to one-twentieth part of the total number of oil paintings belonging to each gallery. In fact, the number of oil paintings in the Tate Gallery is about 2,600, and, in addition, there are about 1,600 other works which fall outside the definition.

I hope I carry the Committee with me in suggesting that if we are to have any limitation at all, it is more desirable to have an overall limitation for all the works rather than to single out any one category and leave the rest free.

Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)

One of the considerations which led us to use the term "oil paintings" was that we understood that water colours were never lent. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will confirm that this is the case?

Mr. Brooke

Perhaps I may continue my argument, indicating the way in which my mind worked when I was trying to recast the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman into what seemed a helpful form.

The total number of works in the Tate Gallery is about 4,200 and at present about 7 per cent of those are out on loan. The percentage presented in the starred Amendment was 5 per cent.—5 per cent. of oil paintings. It occurred to me that if there were 7 per cent. already out on loan and if we wished to extend the lending powers, provided we can do so without running risks, it would be anomalous to put into this Bill a percentage less than the 7 per cent. out already. For that reason my manuscript Amendment suggests that in the case of the Tate Gallery it should be lawful for one-tenth of the total number of works in the gallery to be out on loan.

My Amendment adds this further point, designed solely to give flexibility. We have to bear in mind that it may be another 20 years or more before the House is next legislating on the galleries. Over the past 90 years the average has been somewhat worse than 20-year intervals. Therefore, I suggest that it is desirable to insert some power of flexibility in case of need. The manuscript Amendment would empower the Treasury, by order, to alter those fractions either up or down, but if there was an alteration up—that is to say, a further extension of the lending powers—it would require an affirmative Resolution of the House.

May I give the Committee the kind of hypothetical circumstances in which we all might wish to alter one of these fractions? It is possible—and I am putting this purely as a hypothetical case —that, in the next 20 or 25 years, a new "Lancaster House" might pass into the possession of the Government. It might be suitable to hang in it pictures from the National collection and to make them available to the public. If that occurred, it would be exceedingly aggravating if the National Gallery trustees were to report that they were frustrated by Act of Parliament from hanging pictures, which would otherwise be in their cellars, in that house. In those circumstances—and I hope I carry the Committee with me in the suggestion that this is a practical way of tackling it—it would be possible, if this manuscript Amendment is accepted, for the Treasury to make an order, and for the Government to ask for an affirmative Resolution from both Houses of Parliament to confirm it, so that the lending powers would be extended.

I apologise to the Committee for having sprung on it something which was not on the Notice Paper, but I think that it will be appreciated that it is entirely because it was not until this morning that I had the opportunity to see the starred Amendment from which all this has emerged. My trust is that the plan will, in general, commend itself to the Committee. I think that I have, in my remarks, covered the other Amendments which are on the Notice Paper. I feel certain that, if we are to insert these limitations at all, it is better done by way of percentage than by way of fixed figures, and that, for the reasons which I have given, it would be a pity if there were no flexibility at all.

In conclusion, may I pick up a point which was made about inserting limitations. It seems to me that in a case like this, it is not unreasonable to write a limitation into the Bill, because here we are expressing the will of Parliament as to the number of pictures that should be out at any time. The previous Amendment, where I resisted writing words into the Bill, was on a subject that was essentially within the judgment of the trustees. They can decide better than we can which pictures should be lent. I submit that it is perfectly reasonable, and no interference with the discretion of the trustees in that sense, to put into the Bill an arithmetical limitation of this sort.

I apologise for the length of this explanation but, the matter being somewhat complicated, I wished to make it as clear as I could to the Committee.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I say immediately that, so far as this side of the Committee is concerned, we do not feel that the hon. Gentleman has anything at all for which to apologise. Nor do we find any fault with what he termed the length of his explanation. Were all speeches as short, I think that the business of the House would progress much more rapidly than it frequently does.

What this Amendment does is to amend Clause 4 (1, b). Perhaps I may briefly remind the Committee what that paragraph does. It gives the trustees power to lend pictures or works of art for display— in a public building or official residence…for the furnishing of which the Minister of Works is responsible; and in the official residence of the Governor of a colony. 10.0 p.m.

It was felt, certainly on this side of the Committee, and I gather also by the hon. Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson), who also has on the Paper an Amendment on this point, that some sort of limitation should be placed on the number of pictures which might be on loan from the two galleries at any one time. My hon. Friends and I therefore put down Amendments which we thought necessary, and which we felt at the time would be the best way of achieving this purpose.

In the last day or so an hon. Friend of mine—I do not want to take credit for it—thought that a percentage basis would perhaps be an even better way of achieving our object than the way we first thought of. Accordingly, we put down the starred Amendment to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. I am glad that we did so, because apparently it helped him to make up his mind, and as a result we now have the Amendment which he has moved.

We consider that his new Amendment meets practically all the points which we wanted covered. It gives the galleries elbow room and elasticity as they grow and the number of pictures there increases. It also gives publicity to the loans that are made. Thus it gives the safeguards which we think essential. Therefore, without saying any more, I should like to indicate that my hon. Friends and I welcome the manuscript Amendment. We congratulate the hon. Gentleman on it and we wholeheartedly accept it.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

I want to talk about the last paragraph of this Amendment. It lays down that a fraction set out in the Amendment can be altered by an affirmative Resolution. I cannot see why that calls for an affirmative Resolution instead of the negative procedure. There is an increasing tendency among draftsmen in every Department to provide that instruments shall be the subject of affirmative Resolutions rather than negative Resolutions, and the only effect is that Parliament will become more and more clogged and overworked. I should like to know why my hon. Friend thought it necessary to include the affirmative procedure in this proposed new subsection. The negative procedure would do just as well, and I ask my hon. Friend to substitute it.

Mr. H. Brooke

I hope that my hon. Friend will acquit the draftsmen. These words were drafted on my instructions, and the reason is this. I am not sure whether my hon. Friend was able to sit through the whole of our proceedings on Friday, as some of us did, but I think that those who were present on that occasion were aware that one of the points constantly made in the debate was that we should not lightly jettison all Parliamentary control over lending. Indeed, the whole purpose of Clause 4 is to produce a kind of statutory framework within which the lending can take place.

In the light of that discussion, it struck me that it might not be at all acceptable to the Committee if, at a later stage, the lending powers of the trustees could be considerably enlarged beyond the fractions set out in my Amendment, without Parliament having the full control which the affirmative procedure gives. That was my reason, and it was not because I wanted to waste Parliamentary time, but because as this was a non-party Bill on which different views were expressed in different parts of the House, I was anxious to try and find a solution that might meet the views of as many hon. Members as possible.

Mr. Nicholson

Is it too late to canvass opinion on both sides of the House? As a matter of Parliamentary principle, I beseech my hon. Friend to bear in mind that the negative procedure is fully effective. In an endeavour to save the time of the House in future, I beg him to reconsider this.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)

I rather join with my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) on this, more particularly as last week I moved an Amendment to make subsection (4) of the previous Clause subject to a negative Resolution and not an affirmative one. I decided then, with the current experience of the very heavy business of this House, that it was quite unnecessary to bring an affirmative Resolution before the House to carry out the effects of Clause 3. I did not get much of a reply on that point.

Let me say, in passing, that I welcome the substance of my hon. Friend's Amendment as much as does the right hon. Gentleman for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall). If we look at subsection (2) of the Clause we see that a negative Resolution is provided for in the cases where the trustees are asked to lend pictures for exhibition and display and are perhaps reluctant to do so. Then the Treasury intervenes, suggesting that the lending is advisable and, by an order contained in a Statutory Instrument, endorses the loan. In that case, endorsement of the loan is brought before Parliament in a negative Resolution.

In this same subsection we are told that where it is decided that a higher percentage of pictures from either the National Gallery or the Tate Gallery shall be loaned abroad—other than what is provided for in the Bill—that decision shall be brought before Parliament for an affirmative Resolution. It seems a bit ridiculous that the same subsection should have provisions pointing both ways.

I must warmly congratulate my hon. Friend for the celerity and dispatch with which he has looked at the Amendment on the Notice Paper this morning. In bringing himself to the point of agreeing with the Committee at such a late stage in these proceedings, when the Bill still has to go to another place for endorsement, he has treated the Committee with great courtesy and considera- tion. Yet, I do not think that the thinking has been entirely consistent. I therefore welcome what my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham has said and very much hope that, even at this late hour, the Financial Secretary will try to bring the processes in these Clauses into line and agree that the whole thing should be done by negative Resolution.

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

I hope that the Financial Secretary will not give way on this matter, because we are not all in agreement upon it. There is a very great difference between the use of the negative Resolution and the procedure which we are now discussing. It means a change in principle.

I can give a short example of what I mean. If the limit were to be raised upward because another building had been found which could house some of these treasures, and if that building should happen to be this Palace of Westminster, surely both houses would wish to consider the matter in the manner already provided? It would not be suitable to have it referred to merely by means of a negative Resolution.

I think that, on the whole, the Committee does not agree with the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) or his noble Friend, and I hope that the Financial Secretary will accept that that is what most of us feel.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)

I beg to move, in page 3, line 33, at the end, to insert: Provided that no picture on loan shall be absent from the gallery buildings or from public exhibitions elsewhere than in the United Kingdom for more than five years in every fifteen years. This Amendment is concerned with the length of time which a loaned picture may be out of either of the galleries. This is a question upon which hon. Members on this side of the Committee feel very keenly, and I believe some hon. Members opposite feel the same. It was a matter which gave rise to a debate in the other place.

I think it is generally agreed that the main purpose of our picture collections, especially that in the National Gallery, is to form in one centre an assembly of pictures which can be viewed by the public —artists, students, writers and all those who take a special interest in this art—and that that collection should be there, ready and available for the people to view whenever they want to do so. I think it is also generally agreed that this function of a public gallery is particularly fortunately expressed in our National Gallery collection, for it possesses a comprehensive and unique array of pictures showing the history of Western painting.

We are also agreed that these galleries should, whenever proper lend some of these pictures either for particular exhibitions or for purposes which have been mentioned, and that the trustees should be empowered to lend such pictures as they think fit. The question arises whether there should be some limitation upon the time for which a picture should be absent from the parent gallery, during which time those who are especially anxious to see that picture would be deprived of doing so. It was suggested in another place that a picture should not be away for more than 10 years out of 30, but I feel that that period is far too long. My hon. Friends and I suggest that the limit should be five years and that, after five years, the picture should be returned to the gallery and should not be lent out again for a further period, so that it would never be out for more than five years out of 15.

My view is that a period of five years is really too long for a normal loan, and I put it as an absolute maximum. It is obvious that from the point of view of the gallery and those who enjoy these collections the pictures should not be away for too long, and it is also obvious that from the point of view of the temporary recipients of the pictures—whether they be galleries or embassies—they should not have the pictures for too long.

10.15 p.m.

It is more enjoyable for an ambassador in his embassy, or for visitors to the embassy, or for people who visit public art galleries, to have a change of pictures than to have the same pictures the whole time. It is for that reason in the interest of the recipient of a loaned picture not to have the picture for too long, but to return it and to ask for another from the National Gallery.

When I was Minister of Supply I found that the people living in the research stations of the Ministry, dotted all over the country, situated usually in remote parts, had few if any cultural amenities. Scientists, engineers, senior officers, men of the highest intellectual standing, had to live and work in places where there was no decent picture at all in their dining rooms or common rooms or other recreation rooms where they spent most of their leisure time. Sometimes they would put up a coloured picture torn from a Christmas number of a weekly periodical.

One of the things I did during my tenure of office, and of which I am most proud, was this. It was a time of stringent economy, but I persuaded the Treasury to make a grant of £1,000 a year for a number of years to purchase pictures for those outposts where scientists and others lived. With that money a number of pictures were bought, pictures by living artists, mostly modern pictures. They were distributed to Harwell and such stations, on the basis that no station was to have a picture more than six months. So there was a permanent circulating library of pictures. That was to everybody's advantage. I think it was a good thing. It was popular.

I mention this in support of the argument that those who borrow pictures from either of the Galleries will not be in any way disadvantaged by my Amendment, and that, on the contrary, people will be advantaged if my proposal is accepted that any picture borrowed must be returned within a maximum of five years. I hope, therefore, that the Financial Secretary will see his way to accepting the Amendment.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

It appears to me as if the Amendment deals with pictures lent abroad, not to canteens in this country.

Mr. Strauss

It covers both.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

There are the words "elsewhere than in the United Kingdom."

Mr. Strauss

If the noble Lord reads the Amendment in the context of the Clause he will see that the Amendment would cover all loans. It is certainly intended to, and I think it does. If it is not clear, let me make clear that that is our intention.

The trustees would not be dissatisfied with such a limitation of their powers, because they do not want to lend pictures for any great length of time anyway. I think that if they were told "You must not lend a picture for more than five years in any circumstances," they would not be displeased, because that provision would strengthen them in resisting the demands of some importunate Minister who in future might demand the loan of a picture for much longer.

I very much hope the Government will accept this proposition. If they are not able to accept the exact wording of the Amendment I hope that they will accept the principle involved, and provide for it in an equally effective though alternative way. I hope that the Financial Secretary, who has shown himself very sensitive to the demands made upon him, anxious to meet the views of those who have taken part in these debates and to agree to such safeguards as may be desirable or necessary, will agree to meet us in what we consider an all-important Amendment.

Mr. N. Nicolson

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman for clarification of his Amendment? If he looks at it again, he will see that it reads very strangely. It gives permission for pictures to be exhibited abroad for more than five years. Clearly he does not mean that; he means the opposite.

Assuming that that is the case, may I put a further question? Would he include pictures which were exhibited in Lancaster House? Strictly speaking, those pictures would be away from their parent gallery. Would he think it necessary to call such pictures, a quarter-of-a-mile away from the Tate Gallery, pictures which were away from their home? These pictures will probably be better exhibited in Lancaster House than in their original galleries and will be equally accessible to students.

Mr. Strauss

The suggestion of having Lancaster House as an extension to the National Gallery is a new and very desirable suggestion. If that principle is accepted, I see no reason why pictures should not be in Lancaster House, if it is part of the National Gallery, for much longer than five years. We are concerned with the principle of the dispersal of these pictures from London, possibly all over the world, for periods longer than five years.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

I hope that the Government will not accept the Amendment, which does not seem to me to make sense at all. The whole burden of the speech of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) concerned the question of circulating pictures within canteens in this country, but if hon. Members read the Amendment with care they will see that it is confined entirely by the phrase elsewhere than in the United Kingdom to those pictures which are sent out of this country.

The only pictures which we are discussing under the Amendment are those which will be loaned by the National and Tate Galleries under Clause 4 (1, b) to be displayed in a public building or official residence…for the furnishing of which the Minister of Works is responsible; or (ii) in the official residence of the Governor of a colony or elsewhere abroad.

If we are dealing with pictures which are sent abroad, as I think we are, then I hope that on a fortiori grounds the Government will reject the Amendment. The present policy of the Minister of Works is to select with the greatest care pictures and works of art to send to embassies overseas and residences of colonial governors. Those are pictures which are attuned to the life of the country overseas or the Colony, as the case may be.

As I tried to indicate on a previous occasion, those pictures are meant to attract a great deal of attention to the inter-relationship between the life of that country or Colony and the life of the United Kingdom at a particular point in history. The pictures are sent there and are meant to remain there for a considerable time because they interest the nationals of the country or Colony concerned.

I cannot accept the idea that at the end of five years some ambassador or colonial governor must say to all his friends and to people who move in and out of the embassy or colonial residence, "My dear people, all the pictures and works of art which you have seen about my house for the last five years must, alas, leave me now owing to the fantastic Amendment introduced by the Socialist Opposition on 10th November, 1954." The Amendment makes absolute nonsense of the whole process envisaged in the Clause.

It vitiates the power of the galleries to lend pictures to the Ministry of Works and to contact ambassadors and colonial governors as to the suitability of the works and as to whether they desire to have them returned or replaced by other works. It vitiates the whole power of the artistic machinery of this country to make loans which are suitable to these places, and renders nugatory the purpose of this Clause. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman has understood the meaning of his Amendment, and I think that when he has really seen what it means, he will be willing to withdraw it.

Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)

I think it rather odd that the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) should introduce this note of political controversy into our discussion after the amiable non-party debate on the matter which has been going on for some time. This is not a question of Socialism or Conservatism. We might claim that in our numerical attendance on this side of the Committee we are displaying more interest in and concern about art treasures than hon. Members opposite.

I am puzzled by my right hon. Friend's Amendment, and I should like him to clarify it, because on Friday be urged support of an Amendment—as I am glad he did—which would enable treasures left to the nation to be given to museums other than those listed in the Schedule, on the ground that they might be more appropriate for exhibition in, say, Birmingham than in the National Gallery or some other museum listed in the Schedule, and that there ought to be power for such pictures to be given to the appropriate local gallery.

He instanced some of his own pictures which he thought might be more suitable to the North of England, if he left them to the nation, than to the Tate Gallery or National Gallery. I agreed with him. The Government, in reply, said that they could not allow that Amendment to be carried because there was power on the part of the national museum concerned with the ownership of the pictures to make a more or less permanent loan of the pictures to museums outside London and outside the museums listed in the Schedule, which might be more appropriate for the housing of particular pictures. I thought that reasonable. The Government stuck by the decision that the ownership had to be permanently vested in a national museum but that pictures could be lent almost permanently, in appropriate cases.

As I see it, unless my right hon. Friend can clarify his Amendment it means that even the power of semi-permanent or permanent loan which previously would have been there would be removed by the effect of his Amendment, and that instead of the pictures which he proposed to leave to the nation being allowed to reside in a museum permanently in the North of England, every five years they would have to be brought back.

Is that what he means? If not, I do not think he has worded the Amendment very clearly. If that is what he means I am against the Amendment. If he means that he does not want pictures to be left outside this country for more than five years at a stretch, I am in favour of that. I think that he ought to tell us what he means, because the Amendment is not very well drafted.

Mr. H. Brooke

We seem to be getting into some confusion not only about the colour of the Government but about the precise meaning of this Amendment. Perhaps I may be able to help the Committee best if I address my remarks not so much to the wording of this Amendment, which I quite agree, on careful examination, may be found to be exactly the opposite to what the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) suggested, but rather to the purpose which he had in mind. He was good enough towards the end of his speech to point out that he was not so concerned about any precise proposition as to finding some means of making sure that the policy inherent in the Amendment was the policy pursued.

10.30 p.m.

It may be of interest to the Committee to know what is the present practice of the Tate Gallery Trustees in this matter. In a statement on page 15 of their recently issued report, which has a distinct relevance to the matter which we are now discussing, they say that the trustees have resolved that in future a definite term, not exceeding five years, should be set to all loans and that all the works which had already been on loan for longer than that period should be recalled. They go on to indicate that they are proceeding with the recall of pictures which have already been out on loan for more than five years, in order to imple- ment that policy which they have adopted. I understand that it is the practice of the National Gallery not to let pictures out on indefinite loan, and that whenever the trustees let a picture out, they set a term to the loan. The term varies according to the importance of the picture and the circumstances of the loan.

It seems to me that what we want to do is, so far as possible, to work with the trustees in this matter rather than impose restrictions which might suggest that in the past they had misused their powers. Moreover, I should like to give one or two technical reasons why an absolute limitation of five years in an Act of Parliament would create awkwardness. For example, arrangements might have been made to bring back a picture from a distance, and the ship in which it was carried might be delayed on the way; and the trustees would find themselves committing an offence because the picture was not back in London within the five-year limit.

Furthermore, as has been indicated in the debate, there are certain pictures which are peculiarly appropriate to certain capitals or buildings. It might be that a picture was nearing the end of its five-year period there, and because of some international event taking place in that capital it was particularly desirable that the picture should remain for a time longer and not be withdrawn because of this rigid rule. I want to give proper attention to the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion because, as I have pointed out, it is generally in line with the present practice of the trustees, and I should like to offer this suggested line of action, if it would satisfy the right hon. Gentleman and he would feel inclined, in those circumstances, to withdraw his Amendment.

When the Tate Gallery was first set up as a separate organisation in 1917, the basis of that organisation was a Treasury Minute. It was actually made at the time when the then Mr. Lloyd George was First Lord of the Treasury. It is clear that when this Bill receives the Royal Assent, that Treasury Minute must be withdrawn and a new Minute will be required. That new Minute will have to deal with the constitution and the method of appointment of the trustees, who attain their independent statutory existence for the first time under the Bill. It will go on to deal with what I might call their terms of reference and to indicate such rules and matters of administration as the trustees or the Treasury, after consultation with the trustees, may wish to be included.

In view of the fact that the loan policy indicated in the Amendment, so far as the five-year period is concerned, is much in line with the present policy of the trustees, what occurs to me is that in the drafting of the Treasury Minute a passage might be inserted to indicate that the normal maximum period for any loan should be five years and that the five-year period should be exceeded only if special circumstances exist which render it desirable to apply exceptional treatment.

If that were done, the right hon. Gentleman might still say, "Might not the trustees cheat? Might they not get their picture back after five years, keep it in the collection over a week-end and then send if off for another five years?". I am certain that the trustees of neither gallery are, or ever would be, the kind of people who would cheat in that way.

However, it seems to me that what we all wish to happen is that when a picture returns from loan it should then remain in the collection in London for a due period before being lent again, so that the people who wish to see it here can do so. Hon. Members will agree that the period would vary according to the picture. There might be some pictures of great importance which, having been once lent, should never be lent again. There might be other pictures which had no great current interest here but were very much desired in some embassy or governor's residence abroad. In that case, it would be rather futile to retain them in London for 10 years, simply to comply with a set of words, if nobody was inquiring after them.

It strikes me that trustees must use their judgment as to the proper period for which a picture should be back in the collection, provided that it is fully understood that they will not be regarded as complying with the Treasury Minute or the purpose that has been expressed in the debate today if they just bring the picture back and then send it out again within a few days. When I say "a due period" I mean "a due period."

I have taken such steps as I could to ascertain what the trustees' views would be on this. I think I can assure the Committee that the trustees would in no way object to a Treasury Minute being drafted (which broadly embodied their present lending practice and the five-year period mentioned in the Amendment as the normal maximum limit, and I know I can give an assurance to the Committee that they would not wish in any way to get round that. Those are the lines on which it occurs to me that we might solve this difficult problem.

One further point is that Treasury Minutes are sometimes rather ungetatable documents. I discovered that the other day when the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) asked me Questions about a Treasury Minute of 1874; I had to dig out an enormous volume. In this case, it is clearly desirable that members of the public and Members of the House of Commons should be able to discover what is happening and what has been done.

I suggest, therefore, that some hon. or right hon. Gentleman might feel disposed, at a suitable time after the passing of the Bill, to address a Question to me asking whether the Treasury Minute has been made, and if it has been made by then I will gladly arrange for the full text of it to be given in reply to the Question and printed in HANSARD. As to the future, I cannot bind my successors completely, but at any rate I can say for this Government that it would be the intention to bring to the notice of Parliament any material change made by any future amendments of the Treasury Minute.

In that way, the House would be kept informed of what was happening, and the trustees of both Galleries would year by year, in their annual reports, describe the ways in which they were exercising their lending powers. If there were need, Questions could be asked in the House of Commons, and there could be debates. In some such manner as this, we might secure the general proposition that the right hon. Gentleman is seeking, while retaining the flexibility which I am sure is desirable.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his speech, which did not come altogether as a surprise to me. It indicated the spirit in which we have discussed the Bill last Friday and today, with one small lapse by the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) a few moments ago. I agree with the criticism that the Amendment is ambiguous. It can be read in more ways than one, but the Financial Secretary understands what we had in mind when we put the Amendment down.

The Bill contains a number of safeguards. We do not object to them, and we have tried to strengthen them, but one safeguard is not there. For lending pictures abroad, often of the utmost value, great national heritages, no time limit is in the Bill. We think that that gap should be filled, but we are wedded to no particular method of filling it. Such pictures should not be on loan indefinitely overseas. If a loan is temporary, the picture must come back, but after 30 or 50 years a loan takes on the look of permanency. A time limit in the Bill would strengthen the hands of the trustees.

If, as the noble Lord said, the trustees lend a picture, and some guests at a governor's house abroad notice that a loaned picture has gone, he can easily indicate that it had to go back to the gallery from which it had come. These pictures are bought for the people of our country to see. When pictures are permanently or semi-permanently on loan, students and the British public cannot see them. We are anxious that something should be done to meet that point.

I should like to compliment the hon. Gentleman on the method he has chosen for meeting this difficulty. I agree that there are different kinds of Treasury Minutes. Some which deal with matters not of general interest never publicly see the light of day. The House of Commons and the public would be interested to see Treasury Minutes dealing with these pictures. It would, I gather, be acceptable to the trustees as it would give them a working rule to go by and the House would be kept informed of changes that were made. Some publicity will result when the Treasury Minute is issued, and the terms of reference and the regulations are laid down. If that is the correct reading of what the Financial Secretary suggested, we accept it.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Nicholson

I find myself rather out of sympathy with both Front Benches. There may be a certain danger in limiting too strictly the judgment of the trustees. It is perfectly obvious that the trustees will be carefully chosen men, and it is also obvious that many of the pictures referred to are never on exhibition in this country. They are in the cellars of the National Gallery and the Tate. I cannot see why a picture which has spent its life in the cellars of the National Gallery or the Tate should not be out of this country a good deal longer than five years.

I very much hope that the Financial Secretary will reconsider what he said and not hamper the trustees in this direction. Surely, they are sufficiently responsible people to use their own judgment. If there is a picture which lovers of art wish to see in this country, the trustees will, of course, recall it after a certain time has elapsed, but a second-or third-rate picture—and there are many such in the National Gallery—which is ornamental and decorative may look very well abroad, and the trustees should have full freedom to extend the period of the loan.

Mr. H. Brooke

I am not seeking in any sense to place restrictions on the trustees. The Tate Gallery trustees have placed a restriction on their own actions, and have reported it to the House and to the public. The National Gallery has never allowed an unlimited period of loan, and commonly the trustees have fixed a shorter period than five years for many of their loans. If public opinion should change, and if the trustees at some future date should feel that this is too short a period, the machinery which I described would come into play. There would be consultations, and, if it seemed generally acceptable, a new Treasury Minute would be made known to the public and the House, and discussions would take place thereupon.

I should like to assure my hon. Friend that the reason why I suggested the course of action which I did was that I felt certain that it would be consonant with the wishes of the trustees to proceed in that way, whereas if this House put restrictive words into an Act of Parliament which could not be altered except by passing another Act of Parliament, that would be a serious interference with the actions of the trustees and might give rise to awkwardness.

I hope that, on reflection, my hon. Friend will feel that in this way we are retaining the desirable flexibility while implementing what, I think, is the general desire of the House that pictures should not go abroad for unlimited periods.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

In view of the Financial Secretary's reply, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

I beg to move, in page 3, line 50, to leave out from "unless," to the second "the." in line 1, on page 4.

This Amendment should commend itself to the Government. Perhaps the Committee would like me to read out what the result would be if the Amendment were accepted. The subsection would read: In the case of a picture or other work of art which has been given or bequeathed, the powers conferred by this section shall not be exercisable…in any manner inconsistent with any condition attached to the gift or bequest unless the donor or his personal representatives or the personal representatives of the testator, as the case may be, have consented to the exercise of those powers in that manner. The object of the Amendment is to protect people who give pictures to our galleries.

It seems to me that it is unfair that anybody giving a picture to a gallery should know that it may suddenly, at any time, be used for some purpose different from his wishes. I do not know whether the Financial Secretary has a collection of pictures, but I do know that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor has. Suppose he were to give some of those pictures to the National Gallery or the Tate Gallery. As matters stand now, so far as I understand it, they might be lent for any purpose, whether he liked it or not.

The "Daily Herald" might decide to give an exhibition of pictures at Transport House—newspapers do that for publicity purposes—and the right hon. Gentleman's pictures would have to go to that exhibition whether he wanted it or not. That seems wrong, and there should be adequate protection, so that unless it is in accordance with the wishes of the owner, his executors or those responsible, the pictures should not go elsewhere than where they were intended to go. To protect donors in this respect, I hope that the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary will accept the Amendment.

Mr. H. Brooke

I think it is right and natural that this Amendment should have been moved, but I hope I shall be able to convince the right hon. Gentleman that the dangers are not as great as he fears. A provision of this character has been the law of the land for 71 years, and if he will look at Section 4 of the National Gallery (Loan) Act, 1883, which will be repealed by the Bill he will see there words which state: …such pictures and works of art shall not be lent in pursuance of this Act until the expiration of twenty-five years from the date at which such pictures or works of art came into the possession of such trustees and director.

Mr. Dugdale

Against the wishes of the donors?

Mr. Brooke

Perhaps I can help by reading a little more: …whether any such gift or bequest is made on condition that the articles so given or bequeathed should be kept together, or otherwise subject to a condition inconsistent with the same being lent, such pictures or works of art shall not be lent until the expiration of 25 years from the date on which such pictures or works of art came into the possession of such trustees and director. I should not like to defend a Bill in 1954 solely because similar provisions have been on the Statute Book for 71 years. We might think that our predecessors had made a mistake, but I would like to assure the right hon. Gentleman that the words which he seeks to omit by his Amendment were carefully considered when the Bill was drafted. As words with a similar import had been the law of the land for more than 70 years it did seem reasonable to suppose that any testator or potential donor could have realised without difficulty, and certainly would have realised had he taken legal advice, that if he were thinking of making a gift or bequest to the galleries it would be subject to certain conditions, and that it was possible that, 25 years later, certain of his wishes might be overridden by the trustees.

That has been going on for 70 years, and I think that any pictures which are likely henceforward to fall in under a will, will do so in conditions where the will has been made well after the year 1883. The testator will, therefore, have had reasonable opportunity to discover what was liable to happen under the 1883 Act. In other words, we are doing nothing more in this subsection than carrying on, in suitable language, the condition which has existed statutorily since 1883. I have not been aware, until now, of any strong objection to it. It seems to have been accepted as a reasonable provision in the public interest. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will feel, on reflection, that in this respect, the Bill cannot reasonably be held to override the wishes of benefactors.

Mr. Dugdale

Not myself being a Conservative, I do not altogether agree with the principles adduced by the Financial Secretary. In spite of that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Michael Stewart) (Fulham, East

I wonder if the Financial Secretary could answer a very simple question. Probably all lawyers could answer it, but I am a layman, and the question is perhaps more relevant to this than to any other Clause in the Bill. It says that the trustees must do certain things, and may not do others. What happens to the trustees if they contravene the law? They could be dismissed, of course, but they could be dismissed without an Act of Parliament.

Perhaps it is now more a question of political science. Are we really passing an Act of Parliament at all, or simply laying down a sort of code of behaviour? I realise that one can hardly treat misbehaviour on the part of the trustees of the National Gallery in the same way as one treats a case of pulling the communication cord on the railways without excuse. Nevertheless, it is curious. We are going through the solemn passing of an Act of Parliament, but nothing is laid down as to what happens to people who deny the express will of Parliament. I am quite sure that it will work out all right, but I should like to know the legal explanation.

Mr. Brooke

I should certainly not like, in the absence of the Law Officers of the Crown, to say whether there are precedents, but the hon. Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart) has raised a very interesting point.

As I see it, the position is this. Whether any pecuniary or other penalty would be imposed on trustees who were found to have disobeyed the provisions of this Clause I doubt whether any of us will ever discover, because, in fact, if the trustees did disobey—and wittingly disobeyed—there is no doubt whatever that the Treasury would dismiss them. They are appointed by the Treasury and can be dismissed by the Treasury. The Treasury acts on the instructions of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the First Lord of the Treasury, who as Members of the Government, are responsible to Parliament. I think, therefore, that the Parliamentary control is complete, but I doubt whether matters will ever get quite so far that a trustee will find himself in danger of imprisonment through any sins of omission or commission.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 5 to 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.