§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.13 a.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I think the House will understand why I feel particularly happy that it should fall to me to move the Second Reading of this Bill. I am the son of an artist, and it was in the National Gallery that my father first taught me to begin to appreciate the greatness of great paintings. The Bill, which comes here from another place, concerns two institutions which house some of the most glorious possessions of the British people. It is the collections which matter most of all, and I am sure that we are all at one in wishing that both these collections should grow and grow in quality and become more and more visited and enjoyed by our people, who own them, and by students and art lovers from all over the country.
No one need tell me that one of these institutions has come in for, shall I say, unloving publicity and controversy during the past year. I thought it my duty to the House to inform myself as precisely and thoroughly as I could about the facts of that controversy before bringing forward the Bill. So far as any questions of that sort may be raised in the debate, hon. Members will find that I know all about them. I am left as the result with one very definite view, but, as the main purpose of the Bill is to start the Tate Gallery off on a new life, with Parliamentary blessing, linked with a new status and new strength, I hope that the greater part of our proceedings today may have the atmosphere of a christening rather than an inquest.
I want to try to help the House by giving as clear a picture as possible of what the Bill does. First, it sets up the Tate Gallery as, for the first time, an independent institution, and vests the Tate Collections in the Tate Gallery Trustees. The National Gallery was first opened in 1824, and was given statutory recognition in 1856. It was in the year 1890 that Sir Henry Tate gave to the 2282 nation his collection of modern British pictures, with funds for the building of a gallery to house them. In 1897 the Tate Gallery was opened as the National Gallery of British Art. Then, through the generosity of Sir Joseph Duveen and later of his son, Lord Duveen of Mill-bank, the building was enlarged more than once. By 1926 it housed not only almost all the British pictures formerly at the National Gallery, but a national collection of modern foreign art, and it now also contains a national collection of modern sculpture.
The popularity of the Tate Gallery is growing splendidly. Over 550,000 people visited it last year, as compared with 320,000 two years earlier. In 1917 a board of trustees was set up to administer the Tate Gallery, but these trustees have never possessed independent status. In law, all the exhibits at the Tate Gallery remain vested in the Trustees of the National Gallery, and the Director of the National Gallery is still the accouning officer of the Tate Gallery. I am sure that this is unsound, and that we should take steps to alter it and put the Tate on a new footing. I am sure that its trustees should be given an independent status. Only when that is done will they take up full responsibility for everything that is done at the Tate.
The Bill provides for this in Clause 1, and, in so doing, it fulfils the principal recommendation of the authoritative and powerful committee set up by the Coalition Government in 1944, under the chairmanship of Mr. Vincent Massey, which produced a unanimous report eight years ago. Following the giving of statutory status to the trustees, the next task is to make arrangements to cover the transfer of works from the National Gallery to the Tate, or vice versa, when that is desirable. This is done by Clause 2. There is to be regular consultation between the boards of trustees on transfer questions and in deciding upon loans or transfers from one gallery to the other, certain objectives are incorporated in the Bill for their guidance. Perhaps hon. Members would look at Clause 2, because I think those objectives are exceedingly important. They are first, to maintain in the National Gallery a collection of pictures of established merit or significance second, to maintain in the Tate Gallery a collection of British pictures and a collection of 2283 modern pictures; and third, to secure that each picture is in that collection where it will be available and on view in the best context. In the event of any dispute between the two boards of trustees on the question of a transfer—and I hope there will be no such disputes—provision is made in the Bill for its settlement by a joint committee sitting under an independent chairman.
These arrangements embodied in the Bill are more flexible and seem rather more practical than the stiff rules which were recommended by the Massey Committee. The Massey Committee suggested that every 25 years outstanding pictures in the Tate Gallery were to be considered for, so to speak, promotion to the National Gallery—rather like a headmistress deciding which girls are to go up next term. I can assure the House that the transfer arrangements incorporated in the Bill are acceptable to both the boards of trustees.
So much for the works of art which are now in one gallery or the other. Clause 3 deals with future gifts or bequests of works which are given to the nation, but not to any particular institution by name. Hitherto, in accordance with the National Gallery Act, 1856, all these have automatically vested in the National Gallery, subject, of course, to the willingness of the trustees to accept them. Henceforward, under this Bill, there will be power for the Treasury to direct gifts or bequests of that character in similar conditions to the Tate Gallery or, indeed, to any of the other great national institutions listed in the First Schedule—some of them, it will be seen, in Scotland and some in Wales—if some other institution seems a more appropriate recipient for the particular work in question than the National Gallery.
Clause 4 deals with a subject that, I know, will be of considerable interest to a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House, and that is the lending powers of the trustees. Let me start by explaining what the existing lending powers are, because the position is a somewhat confusing one, and I should like to try to make it clear. The trustees have at present restricted powers to lend pictures and works of art at their discretion to other public galleries inside this country. This is under a provision of the National Gallery Act, 1883. As 2284 regards loans overseas, however, the statutory position is different. In this case the loan is allowed of pictures by British artists only. It may be either for public exhibition abroad or for display in the residences of British ambassadors. This power, as distinct from the other, is derived from the National Gallery (Overseas Loans) Act, 1935, but there is at present no power whatever to lend abroad pictures from the National Gallery or from the Tate Gallery which are by foreign artists.
After very careful consideration, it is felt that these existing powers are too restricted. Let me give this example. We in this country, I am sure everybody will agree, are benefiting more and more from the enjoyment of pictures lent from foreign countries for special exhibitions here. We have had these special exhibitions at the Tate Gallery itself, in Edinburgh, and, of course, on many occasions in the international exhibitions which attract such huge crowds to Burlington House. When conversely an international exhibition is being arranged abroad the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery are at present permitted by law to offer to lend only pictures in their possession that have been painted by British artists, and however desirable it may seem to the artistic world that a particular picture at the National Gallery or the Tate Gallery painted by a foreign artist should be included in that exhibition, it cannot go. I do not think the House will be surprised to know that we are getting evidence of some reluctance abroad to go on lending as freely as hitherto to exhibitions in this country when we are prevented by law from reciprocating.
I hope, therefore, that it will be agreed by the House that Clause 4 offers a sensible and an enlightened solution of this very real problem. Subject to safeguards for the safety of the pictures, and with special provisions for the earlier and more fragile works, Clause 4 will, with one exception, give power to the Trustees of the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery, at their discretion, and subject to whatever conditions they may impose, to lend pictures or other works of art whether by British or by foreign artists for public exhibition anywhere in the world, or for display anywhere in the world in public buildings or official 2285 residences which the Minister of Works is responsible for furnishing, or in the official residences of governors of colonies.
I said that there was one exception. The one exception is that pictures or other works of art executed by foreign artists before the year 1700 may not be lent abroad without the consent of the Treasury and the knowledge of Parliament.
There are also provisions in Clause 4 to safeguard the wishes of donors or testators, and to make sure—I attach very great importance to this—that students or others engaged in genuine research work may have access to those loaned pictures wherever they may be.
Though the trustees are to have these wide powers to lend, they are to have no powers to sell. I understand that this is the wish of both bodies of trustees, and, indeed, anyone who wished to sell a picture from one of the national collections would be assuming a grave responsibility, History proves that pictures that are little regarded by one generation may he held in high honour by posterity. If a picture has been lent it can be recalled; if it has been sold it may be beyond recall.
It is quite true that the National Gallery Trustees have possessed the power to sell since 1856, but it is also true that it is almost 100 years since that power was last exercised. Clause 6 proposes to repeal it.
There is a special problem which affects the Tate Gallery. The Tate is a gallery of British art, modern art and modern sculpture. The meaning of the word "modern" changes, of course, as the years go round we all talked of ourselves as modern when we were young, but our sons and daughters now take a rather different view about us. Nor can pictures escape the passing of years. It is felt that if the Tate Gallery is to possess a collection of modern sculpture and of modern foreign paintings, its time-span will have constantly to be moving forward. The reputation of a picture may dwindle or it may grow with the years, but inevitably there comes a time when it ceases to be modern.
I have explained how Clause 2 provides for the possibility of transfers of pictures between the Tate Gallery and 2286 the National Gallery, but that would not completely solve this problem, for the National Gallery is not concerned with sculpture while the Tate Gallery is, and, furthermore, it is not likely that the National Gallery will require every picture by a foreign artist which passes out of the Tate Gallery's period of modernity. This is the reason for Clause 5, which empowers the Tate Trustees to transfer pictures or works of art to any of the other great national institutions listed in the First Schedule which may be desirous of accepting them.
Clause 7 may look like one of those mysterious, sinister Clauses which are slipped in at the end of a Bill, but I assure the House that there is nothing sinister about it, although it reads somewhat mysteriously. It arises because the National Gallery Act, 1856, vests the collection in the trustees and director of the National Gallery. The director is responsible now to the trustees—there is that difference in function between them —and it therefore seems right and appropriate to bring the National Gallery in this respect into line with other great national institutions by statutorily vesting the collection in the trustees alone. That is the simple purpose of Clause 7.
We are here considering legislation, and legislation in itself is concerned with such matters as structure, machinery and statutory powers. No one could begin to visualise or to appreciate these great collections by studying the National Gallery and Tate Gallery Bill or by poring over the old statutes which it is designed to supersede. One can enjoy and appreciate the collection only by going to Trafalgar Square or Millbank.
What we all want to ensure is that these magnificent collections are well cared for and are wisely enlarged, with the one object of securing that they shall serve the greatest possible public good. For that we must look to the trustees. Theirs is the responsibility. No Government would or should dream of seeking themselves to administer these great art collections directly.
I have a list here of the present bodies of trustees and I will read the names if the House wishes. We must either entrust responsibility to them or else we must say that they are not good enough and we must get others, but these names are, in fact, recognised, many of them recognised the world over, some of them 2287 as artists, some as authorities on art, some as enlightened collectors and connoisseurs and some as men of outstanding business ability prepared to devote their time as a public service to the better management of our art galleries.
I can say in all seriousness that I should not be moving this Second Reading if I had not complete confidence in the present boards of trustees—and I do not say that lightly. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told the House that he has the fullest confidence in them. Indeed, their names and their reputations command that confidence. I hope I shall not be thought flippant if I say that even in relation to great art collections one proof of the pudding is in the eating. There is no doubt that our London galleries are being more and more enjoyed and more and more visited. Let us be thankful for that. If one looks at the truly wonderful list of acquisitions in the Tate Gallery's latest Report, among them works of superlative quality, I think one understands why people who are interested in art and people who want to be interested in art are flocking to the Tate Gallery in ever greater numbers.
We possess these superb collections. I hope the House will give a Second Reading to the Bill so that we may get rid of certain obsolete statutory arrangements, bring the arrangements up to date and thereby make our special contribution from the House to the future of treasures which we. as a nation, are proud to possess.
§ 11.37 a.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
The House is grateful to the Financial Secretary for the lucid and very attractive way in which he has presented the Bill for Second Reading. We welcome the Bill, much more, I admit, since it received some pruning in another place.
The Financial Secretary will agree that we should have had very much more to say about it had it not been that the very able criticisms and speeches which were delivered in another place effected certain changes, particularly the one to which he referred dealing with the right of sale. Another problem was the right to bequeath or to give away works of art to the Minister of Works.
2288 The Bill as presented to us today is very much more attractive than it appeared to be in its original form in another place. I do not think Clauses 1 and 2 can meet with serious criticism from us. The Financial Secretary referred to the principles laid down for the guidance of the trustees in Clause 2. Inasmuch as those refer only to the question of the transfer of works from one of these institutions to the other, I think they are probably in as well chosen words as one could devise. When legislators have to give guidance on the arts to trustees, the choice of words may be subject to criticism, but I am not criticising the words chosen here.
The Tate becomes a gallery of British and modern foreign art. That is exactly what it should be; that is what it is. It is the largest of our galleries for this purpose in the Commonwealth. It has a magnificent collection and it is something that every year more people go to and enjoy. Foreign visitors, I am advised, when they step off their ship very often hasten at once to the Tate or the National Gallery as the very first place to visit in the Metropolis.
But it is surely quite apparent to everyone interested in the gallery that the trustees find themselves seriously incommoded whenever we have a great exhibition loaned to us from abroad because there is not enough space to house our own magnificent permanent collection and the exhibition loaned to us. The time has surely come when we must consider that this contingency, embarrassing to us, to the trustees and the public, should come to an end as soon as possible.
I think we have been remiss, for reasons, perhaps, over which we have not had complete control, such as the years of the war and the dislocation after the war. Nevertheless, we have to accept the fact that other countries cater for the arts in this respect rather better than we do. The Tate has ground space on each side of it.
I wonder whether the Financial Secretary has considered the desirability of new buildings as quickly as our resources will permit for the two following reasons? One is that when we have these remarkable exhibitions which come to us from time to time—one ended last Wednesday and there was still a great 2289 queue of people anxious to get in—we should be able to retain our own collection for people who want to see it. Therefore new exhibitions should be held in what might be termed an orangerie attached to the new building.
There is another and even more important purpose which it would serve if we had more facilities at the Tate by way of exhibition space. In the main, our own artists have to rely almost entirely on the commercial galleries for showing their works. I am not criticising the assistance given to them by the commercial galleries, but it is deplorable that we have not available in London a gallery which from time to time would offer exhibition space to our own living artists. If we had the type of building I envisage available to the Tate we should not only be able to house foreign exhibitions, but could give an impetus and encouragement to our own painters and sculptors.
The hon. Gentleman spoke of the 550,000 people who went to the Tate last year. I wonder if I might put this proposition to him? Has he noted that education authorities in London do not generally take the same advantage of these two great national collections as education authorities in the provinces take of their much smaller collections?
§ Mr. H. Brookeindicated assent
§ Dr. Stross
I see that the hon. Gentleman has taken note of that.
If today we are dealing with a page of living history, why should our children not have opportunities at frequent intervals, here in the Metropolis, of seeing two collections which are allegedly, and I think admittedly, among the best collections in the world? I wonder whether it would be possible for the Minister to take note of that and make specific arrangements, as are made in provincial cities and towns, for school children to have more opportunities than they appear to have in London?
The National Gallery is catered for in this Bill, and I have some criticism to make. I want to endorse every word that the Financial Secretary said about our absolute trust in the trustees of both institutions. Nothing I say will be in any way a criticism of them. But at the National Gallery we notice that there is 2290 a difference between the collection available for public view as compared with the collection before the war. There has been criticism from well-informed quarters about the change.
I wish to ask the Financial Secretary when the National Gallery will have the space made available to it which it had before the war. We know what the war did to both these institutions. In asking when the former space will be made available, may I also ask how soon the work of air-conditioning, which has been contracted for, will be completed, and how many air-conditioned rooms will be available for the hanging of paintings?
A collection in the National Gallery where every work is meritorious and every work is beautiful, is not thought by some people to be enough. Even 100 years ago a Select Committee suggested that the work should not only be beautiful and meritorious but that, so far as possible, the collection should be built up to provide the material for an understanding of the history of painting itself. This criticism, obviously, is based upon the fact that there is not space available.
If we are to have enough space available, not only do we require that the former space should be restored as quickly as possible, but we must give thought to a further building, or buildings. Recently, the Government have very handsomely furnished Lancaster House, which is open to the public. Last year 10,000 people went to Lancaster House. I think the Financial Secretary may tell us. when he winds up the debate, that thought has been given to that matter and that there is sympathy with the idea that Lancaster House might be used as additional space for housing some part of the collection from the National Gallery.
It may be that there is another building, such as Osterley, in the mind of the Government. With this interest in our art treasures as living history—students used to come from abroad in droves to see the greatest collection in the world, as the National then was—the opportunity would be welcomed of seeing not only single or collected works which are the best of their type in the world, but of seeing other works by the same artists hanging with them. That would enable viewers to study the history of art, as expressed in the Western world at least.
2291 This consideration of lack of space is a very serious one and has a bearing on the whole controversy about Clause 4, (1, b). Clause 4 (1, a) deals withpublic exhibition, whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere.If others are lending us their treasures, we must reciprocate, or our reputation will fall, but if there is not sufficient space either in the Tate or the National Gallery—where restriction is more grievous—the trustees may be pressed into accepting the provision of subsection (1, b) of offers for displayin a public building or official residence in the United Kingdom or elsewhere for the furnishing of which the Minister of Works is responsible;and secondly,in the official residence of the Governor of a Colony.Do we want to fall into the trap of dispersing our collections even though we are completely satisfied that they should circulate? There is a great difference between circulation and dispersal. Dispersal was the addiction of the Italian Government under Signor Mussolini, and I am advised that today the Italian Government are doing their best to recover treasures which were dispersed and many of which were lost sight of. If we are to dispose of paintings from the National Gallery or the Tate Gallery we feel that loan to provincial art galleries and museums is laudable and desirable, and we favour that course.
If our emphasis is on the homes of colonial governors which require furnishing by paintings, my view is that the pool of the Minister should be enlarged by new buying if necessary. He might have a bigger grant. The Minister of Works should become a patron of the arts in a greater sense than at present, and so far as possible buy paintings and sculptures by living British artists in the main, though we would not tie him down too much. Then the shabbiness of some of our British embassies and the homes of our colonial governors might be ameliorated. We would all gladly accept that as an obligation.
After all, it is not a very expensive thing to do when we consider the resources of the nation. We may wait too long to buy contemporary paintings and 2292 sculptures. They may become very expensive within 50 years. Five figures has been paid for a French Impressionist painting and over £30,000 for a single Cezanne. If the Minister of Works had had permission 50 years ago to spend £30,000 or £40,000 each year on contemporary paintings both in Britain and Europe, he would have an admirable collection today, and we should not now have to talk about our difficulties.
There is a great deal to be said for that. It would mean that the British taxpayer was investing his money and not spending it indiscriminately if he allowed the Minister to purchase for his pool in this way. I am certain that the Minister would agree with this view and—I think it fair to give this warning—we shall, at a later stage of the Bill, do our best to make that possible for him.
If I may return to the question of exhibiting abroad, when we come to consider what we should send out of the country the views of people differ extensively. I have heard it put attractively in this way, that we should divide our treasures into two types. One type should be those considered to be works of art of world importance which, so far as possible, should not be allowed to travel, because they are fragile and scarce. It would not be a bad thing if people came to see them rather than that the works should be sent to the people. For works not of this type circulation must be the rule. I have heard it put in this way, "Do not send out your Rembrandts; take a risk with your Turners, and knock your Picassos about a bit."
While we are on this point, may I remind the Financial Secretary of the remarkable stories we have heard, and which are quite true, of the very sad things which sometimes happen to precious works of art? They are loaned from one gallery to another, and sometimes they are destroyed by fire, or damaged by damp or water. Sometimes they have pieces of paint knocked off the canvas.
I wonder if the hon. Gentleman would discuss with the Minister of Works the question of research into the provision of suitable containers? Do we any longer have to limit ourselves to wooden packing cases with brown paper and straw, or cotton wool and rags, or whatever we 2293 use? In this plastic age, cannot we devise suitable types of containers for larger and smaller works, which would make them impervious to damage from damp, water or fire? That might be an easy thing to do. It would not cost very much, and the containers would be permanent things which might be used over and over again.
The Financial Secretary told us that he thought it desirable that we should no longer have to use the 1935 Act. Of course, that Act is no longer needed if we enact this Measure, which gives greater power in the way of lending paintings and sending them abroad to our embassies or to furnish the homes of colonial governors, but many people feel that even the 1935 Act was too wide in its interpretation, and I think that we must examine the whole of this problem.
May I say how much I agree with what the Financial Secretary said, that no age and no generation can have the last word on any work of art. Each age and every generation should be tolerant, not only of the age which has already passed but of criticisms coming from the age about to arrive. I know that beginners say that they know what they like. I have sympathy with the man who says that he knows what he likes in reference to works of art, but I feel that the last stage of wisdom in this matter is to say, "I like what I know." I doubt if we get beyond that stage.
We are limited and conditioned by the age in which we live. The artist is contained by the medium which he uses in different ways in different ages. That is all the more reason why we should be careful not to allow the dispersal of these great collections.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
I should have thought that the artist escapes from the age in which he lives more easily than anyone else.
§ Dr. Stross
That is something with which I totally disagree. I believe that the artist lives more deeply than we do and that he prophetically points a finger to the age about to come and is the most ardent critic of the age in which he and we live.
This discussion and my consideration of the Bill has shown me that we must be very conservative indeed about dispersal, although we must encourage 2294 circulation. We should consider that a great institution like the Tate has had about £20,000 from the nation through the whole of its life. In 1946 it received the first £2,000. When we remember that the building and contents are worth. I suppose, about £20 million, we realise what a remarkable gift from our fellow citizens it is.
We have been much too niggardly about art and I think that we are still. I say that advisedly. If we are to pay lip service in this House to this great heritage which has come down through the ages, and to the skill and craftsmanship and genius of our living artists, I think that we should be prepared to do even more that lies in our power to foster the arts, and to find the appropriate money for them.
§ 12 noon.
§ Mr. C. E. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
The whole House will agree, I think, that we are wise to spend today discussing the Bill. I have often wondered whether we devote quite enough time or vote enough money when considering how best to preserve, maintain and enlarge and display our collection of wonderful works of art. I do not want to go into some of the more potentially controversial matters which could be raised. I want to concentrate on Clause 4 and to make a few comments on the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross). In particular, I wish to make reference to the powers given by the Bill to loan paintings abroad to our embassies and Government houses.
Unlike the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, I hope that the very fullest use will be made of these loan facilities. In the old days, when an ambassador was appointed to a big embassy, he was expected to furnish it according to his own taste with his own possessions. He took his own silver and most of his own furniture, and he selected whichever of his pictures he thought would be most suitable for the embassy in question. Those days are long gone by. They bear no relation to the present position. The provision of suitable pictures for embassies and government houses is not only a very real problem which merits the attention of the House; it is also a challenge.
2295 It would be unfair to say that the Ministry of Works have not made considerable progress. They have. There are some good pictures on loan in British embassies, though I must admit that when one sees really good pictures in a British embassy it is probably the exception rather than the rule. Too often one sees either bare walls in very large rooms or walls hung with highly unsuitable pictures or bad reproductions of well-known paintings. In one Government house, which had better be nameless, the pictures are really no more than lithographs of the sort one would expect to find in one of the waiting rooms of any of our large railway stations in England. This is both unsuitable and unwise.
Why should not foreigners who go to British embassies not only be able to see pictures by good British artists but also pictures by good foreign artists of the same period? I really cannot see why. I should have thought that it was far better from every point of view that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works should be enabled to exercise wide powers in the loan of pictures by both British and foreign artists for display, not only in exhibitions abroad but in British embassies, rather than that many of these pictures should be left in cellars underneath the National and Tate Galleries, where they are seen only on rare occasions by some individual with a special interest.
We are living in a world of what is called cultural propaganda. Many institutions like the British Council and others spend considerable sums of money on the display of British culture overseas. I wish that they could spend more. In the field of art, Clause 4 presents an admirable opportunity to enable foreigners to see pictures by British and foreign artists at extremely small cost under the best possible circumstances. For that reason, I welcome the Bill and, in particular, the powers to loan granted by Clause 4.
§ 12.5 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)
First, I would desire to endorse every word spoken by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), who most admirably expressed the views of hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the House. Next I wish to 2296 comment on Clause 4, as well as on one or two other matters which arise from the Bill.
In Clause 4, the Government are trying to reconcile two conflicting objectives, which are both in themselves desirable. One is to let as many people as possible enjoy the pictures in our two major galleries. The other, which is also very important, is to preserve the essential, and indeed the original, function of at least one of our galleries, the National Gallery, and that is that it should constitute in one convenient centre an assembly of pictures representing fully and in a balanced manner the history of Western painting.
That is a purpose which is now admirably fulfilled by the representative and comprehensive collection of pictures at the National Gallery. It is probably the most comprehensive in the world. It is most desirable for this House to ensure, in whatever it does in permitting the dispersal of some of these pictures, that this peculiar and outstanding quality of the National Gallery should not be destroyed or even impaired. Therefore, it is reasonable to impose some limitation on the discretion of the trustees to protect them against, say, a too insistent Minister of Works of the future who may possibly be supported by a powerful Chancellor of the Exchequer less interested in cultural matters than our present Chancellor.
It has been suggested that one reason why we should disperse these pictures is the present limitation of our wall space, at the National Gallery in particular. It is regrettable that for long periods there should be large numbers of pictures in the cellars of our galleries where the public are unable to see them. The Government must take considerable responsibility for that. It may be that to some extent the Labour Government are responsible; I do not think so, but it is possible. Certainly the present Government have not taken the action which they could have taken to make more wall space available and to restore many of the exhibition rooms that are now closed. Only one additional room has been built in the National Gallery since 1911 out of public funds and that is quite a small one; and even then that gain is balanced by the loss of a room destroyed during the war. Since 1911, 400 or 500 new pictures have been acquired by the gallery.
2297 There is now an urgent need to put into proper use the existing rooms in the National Gallery, and without further delay. I should like to quote the words of Sir Gerald Kelly, who, in a letter to "The Times" on 29th April, said:Secondly, the delays in rehabilitating the National Gallery exhibition space have now become nothing short of scandalous. Nine years after the end of the war 10 National Gallery rooms are still out of use, and of these 10 it is proposed to reopen no more than two this year (the first rooms for three years)! This snail's place is quite derisory, and has brought us the invidious distinction of being at the bottom of the European class as regards gallery rehabilitation. Many countries less rich than England have achieved much more; to take but a single instance, the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum, which was far more severely damaged than the National Gallery, is being reopened in May.There speaks an authority. I think it is a national scandal that we have not been more rapid and have not done more in restoring the National Gallery to its previous state.
Before we pass the Bill, we should get some firm assurance from the Government—perhaps from the hon. Gentleman who will reply—that they will take more speedy action in this matter than they have done in the past, and that we shall secure the restoration of these rooms, as well as the use of other wall space—for example, Lancaster House—for the display of the treasures which are at present in the cellars of the National Gallery.
I may be plunging in where angels fear to tread, but I think it is important on this occasion to ask the Government a number of questions on what the Financial Secretary called the "unloving publicity and controversy" which has surrounded the Tate Gallery in recent years. We are granting the trustees considerable new powers, and we should assure ourselves that all is well with those responsible for administering the affairs of the gallery. We are entitled to ask whether the Treasury itself is satisfied that everything is as it ought to be, and that it has effective indirect control of the situation.
The only facts that I know are those reported in the Press. It is certain that there have been points of serious disagreement over the past years between the director and the trustees over a number of matters, and that these disagreements have now and again blown up into a crisis. We are given to under- 2298 stand that the disagreements have been not on aesthetic matters but on questions of administration, and that they have been of a serious kind.
It is said that some vendetta is being carried on by disgruntled people against the director of the gallery. If there is, it is, of course, to be deplored and will be ignored by this House, but no one would suggest that the trustees, who are very distinguished people, can be motivated by any feeling of personal vendetta in this matter. The Financial Secretary went out of his way to express complete confidence in the present trustees, and it is their actions and their views alone, and not those of any outside people who may have a grievance or a grudge, which justify our raising the matter today and asking for some assurances.
The matter came to a head, although there had for a long time been rumours in the art world of disagreements, with the recent resignation of Mr. Graham Sutherland. The House will know that he is a British painter with a world-wide reputation, and I have been told by those who know him that he is a man of balanced judgment. Yet, some months ago, for good reason or bad, he felt so keenly that the gallery was being maladministered that he resigned from the board of trustees after many years' service.
Let me say at once that I do not know, and I do not think anybody outside the gallery can really know, whether he had good reasons for his action and whether there are, in fact, any grounds for saying that there has been bad administration. It may well be that Sir John Rothenstein, the director, a man with a high reputation in the world of art, who has, I know, rendered great service to the gallery and is devoted to its welfare, has been a most admirable director in every way, and it may be that no criticism of him is justified. Indeed, even if I thought criticism was justified, I would certainly not express it here because he is a civil servant and is unable to reply. I would not criticise him here or elsewhere.
Nor do we know what the rows have really been about. We gather that they have been chiefly on staff matters. We know of one subject which has caused a considerable stir, and that is the use of the funds from several trusts contrary 2299 to the letter, and, in one case the spirit, of the trust deeds. Admittedly, this is a serious matter. There may have been mitigating circumstances—I do not know —and I would not condemn any man on that count alone.
However, we know that Mr. Graham Sutherland, in a letter which he wrote to the "New Statesman" said that during his period of trusteeship:…one internal crisis succeeded another.What should give us and the Treasury very grave concern indeed is the statement which he made in that same letter. He said:I have in my possession letters from fellow Trustees written at the time of my resignation telling me that my disquiet was fully shared by my colleagues. One Trustee, who was present at a meeting on January 22, informed me that 'every Trustee present felt exactly as you do' in that there was no reason to feel that the Board would not be again confronted with similar embarrassments. Other Trustees also wrote regretting my resignation because they thought that if such action proved necessary—which they, at one point, thought possible—the Trustees should resign en masse.That reveals an alarming situation. Here we are told by somebody who is not at all irresponsible, of intermittent crises and that many other Trustees agree with him on the grounds of his resignation; and that, moreover, there were possibilities of mass resignation, presumably of the whole board.
We in this House are also trustees of the gallery for the nation; we are just as concerned as anybody else is—in fact, it is our duty to be—with the welfare of the Tate Gallery. We should be failing in our duty today when this Bill is in front of us if we ignored this public controversy and did not ask the Government to give us some information and, if possible, some assurance on the points which have been raised.
I want to ask the Government one or two very simple questions. First of all, is the Treasury at all concerned about the situation? I understand that it has been in the past and a few years ago appointed some form of inquiry into the affairs of the Tate Gallery. But is it concerned about the situation today? The letters of the other trustees to Mr. Graham Sutherland—trustees in whom the Government have complete confidence—have expressed their agreement 2300 with the disquiet which Mr. Sutherland feels. Are the Government concerned—they certainly ought to be—and if so, what are they doing to bring about harmony among the authorities controlling the gallery? Do the Government share the view expressed by many trustees:…that there was no reason to feel that the Board would not be again confronted with similar embarrassments.If there are fundamental differences between the trustees and the director—and if the Government feel the misgivings of Mr. Sutherland and those other trustees who have expressed support for his views have no foundation; if they have complete confidence in the director, would it not perhaps be desirable to bring about the resignation of some of the trustees, in order to restore harmony in the gallery? A continuation of the present situation is obviously most undesirable.
I agree with the hon. Member who said that on this occasion we must look to the future and not be so much concerned about the past. He said that we were today engaged in a christening and not an inquest, and I agree with him. Can then the trustees or the Treasury give us any assurance—I appreciate that they cannot give a pledge in the matter—that the present relations between the staff, the director and the trustees are today such as to make a recurrence of past difficulties, troubles and unhappy events unlikely?
I very much hope that the Financial Secretary will be able to give us such an assurance today, because I am certain that the House as a whole, or that section of it taking an interest in the matter, is deeply concerned to see that this magnificent gallery should continue to prosper; and that there should be no discord among those responsible for running it, which in the long run must have an adverse effect on its affairs. I am glad that the Financial Secretary has taken the precaution of informing his mind on this problem, and that he can give us some information today.
Finally, there is an observation that I want to put forward in this connection. It is not based on any belief—because I just do not know—that the present director of the Tate Gallery has not carried out his functions in the most admirable way. Assuming that he has, 2301 I am nevertheless firmly convinced that it is a mistake to put in administrative charge of any gallery a luminary from the artistic world. It is far better to appoint a first-class administrator, though obviously a man with some cultural interests, and to provide him with an artistic adviser whom he or the trustees could consult whenever they wanted. I much hope that the Government will bear this suggestion in mind in any future appointment of this sort.
§ 12.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Williams (Tonbridge)
I am not going to follow very closely the dangerous ground upon which the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) has been treading, because I think it is too dangerous for me to embark upon, but, if I may say so, I thought the right hon. Gentleman made an extremely able speech, which I think all of us were glad to hear. I particularly agree with him about the National Gallery itself, and that something more should be done to hang those pictures which at the moment are being stored in the basement.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that no building had been done there since 1911. I do not think the time has yet come when we can start rebuilding at the National Gallery, as there are more important things to build, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's words of wisdom will fall upon some Minister responsible in the future at a time when we can afford to build. I think we ought to get these pictures out of the cellars if we possibly can, and this Bill will help a great deal in that some of the pictures are going to be lent.
When we lend the pictures which have been stored in the basement of the National Gallery, they will give much pleasure to people all over the country. Further, when we lend pictures from the gallery itself, some of those pictures now stored below can be brought up, temporarily, to fill their places until they come back. This will be of great benefit, not only in making use of pictures now stored underground, but also in giving pleasure to those who will be enabled to see them.
This is a particularly good Bill, and it is gratifying that we have ample time to discuss it today. It is a Bill which appeals to all of us, though naturally to 2302 some more than to others. The more knowledge one possesses of pictures the more one likes them, just as the more knowledge of horticulture one possesses the more one likes flowers; but pictures are like flowers in that everyone admires a beautiful rose, and everyone, without knowing the history of art and the artist, can enjoy a beautiful picture.
I have noticed the comments of the Massey Committee to the effect that "dispersion is better than concentration," and this Bill will bring about that dispersion. Of course, we must have concentration in a great national place like the National Gallery, in which we have all the finest pictures. It is like a library, which can be used for reference purposes, and to which all can go to see specimens of almost any school of art or artist in which they may be interested.
It will be a great advantage if these pictures are lent to galleries all over the country, because, in many cases when one goes to a great national gallery one cannot take in all there is to see, because there is too much. Personally, I like to sit down and look at only one or two pictures, or to cover only one or two rooms fairly thoroughly. If there are, at different places in this country, small collections of famous pictures, people will get enjoyment by going to see them, and any one of us, when motoring about the country, will be able to stop to look at them and thereby derive enormous pleasure and benefit.
The policy of lending pictures is also very good from the reciprocal point of view. We have seen wonderful exhibitions of pictures which have been loaned to us by the Dutch, the Italians and others, and more recently by the Germans, and in the past it has been very difficult, if not almost impossible, for us to reciprocate. Some private collectors have been able to do it.
This Bill will put right the difficulty there has been. We cannot have a one-way traffic going on in artistic matters, and if we are to lend our pictures abroad, including pictures by foreign artists as well as by people in this country it will enhance our prestige to some extent. I know that we do not worry very much about propaganda and prestige and rather take these things for granted, but we must not take too much for granted: and if we send our pictures abroad it is 2303 bound to help our prestige to some extent.
§ Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
I am sure that my hon. Friend realises that, under the terms of this Bill, we are not allowed to send to foreign exhibitions pictures painted by foreign artists before 1700, and that those are the pictures which foreign exhibitors most want to have and which, in their case, they have sent to this country?
§ Mr. Williams
I know that quite well, and I think that the reason is that many of the pictures painted before 1700 were painted on wood and were, therefore, very fragile and brittle, and, possibly, were in very much more danger when they travelled abroad than later pictures painted on canvas.
I agree with my hon. Friend that we might just as well allow all pictures to be loaned, and rely on the trustees to decide any questions about their safety, especially as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) has mentioned that we can now get fool-proof packing cases which will keep out any damp or extremes of atmospheric conditions, and even render the pictures safe from fire. If all these conditions prevailed, I feel that I should agree with my hon. Friend's intervention.
I hope the trustees of the galleries will really make use of their power to lend which is given them in this Bill, and I hope they will be instrumental in offering pictures to other collections, and not just wait to be asked. The pictures in some galleries in and around London were removed during the war to other parts of the country, where many other people have been able to see them. Under the terms of this Bill, if we are able to lend pictures, people in remote areas of the country who possibly would never otherwise get a chance of seeing famous pictures locally, will be able to see and enjoy them in their own towns or localities and at their own leisure.
I was very much surprised by the large figures which my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary gave of visitors to the Tate Gallery—nearly 2,000 a day. I think that is very encouraging, and I hope that my hon. Friend will listen to the advice 2304 given to him by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central about encouraging more children to visit the London galleries. I think it is true that children in the provinces are taken to see the pictures in their local galleries much more often than are some of the London children.
I should like to say one more thing about loaning. I hope that some of the loans will be permanent loans. There may be many galleries which are stocked full of Rembrandts and Morlands for instance, while perhaps others have too many Reynolds or Constables, and if a more or less permanent exchange could be made it would of great advantage to each gallery concerned. I hope, therefore, that these loans will not necessarily be considered as temporary but that many of them will be permanent.
I have one question to ask on Clause 2. It is provided that in the event of dispute, a committee can be formed with an unbiased chairman. I should have thought it would have been much better to have had the whole committee neutral, except, perhaps, for a representative of the Tate Gallery and a representative of the National Gallery. By all means let there be one of each to put their case, but the rest of the committee should be neutrals. Far too much onus would be put on the shoulders of one unfortunate chairman who might have to carry cut his job in a highly controversial atmosphere. I hope that as Members on all sides of the House are so keen to see the Bill become law, it will have the support of the whole House today.
§ 12.32 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
Like the hon. Member for Ton-bridge (Mr. G. Williams), I think that the House should be indebted to the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) for venturing with some courage into the lions' den of art controversy. It is sometimes difficult for politicians, living in the comparatively calm and impartial atmosphere of party politics, to realise the fierce passions which rage among the directors of museums and art galleries.
I support the right hon. Member, however, in drawing the Minister's attention to the fact that there appear to have been some elementary mistakes of ordinary 2305 administration, and that if we are to encourage the galleries to spread pictures all over the world, as I hope we will, we must have some assurance that they will know where they ultimately end up.
If the Financial Secretary to the Treasury looks at paragraph 13 of the Tate Gallery Trustees' Report of February, 1954, he will see thatit emerges that there has been no systematic procedure at meetings of the Trustees"—that is, of the Tate Gallery—whereby a purchase was debited as a matter of routine to a particular fund.I agree with the right hon. Member for Vauxhall that that cannot give us any great confidence in the administration. It may be that the Tate Gallery Trustees do not have an adequate administrative machinery at their disposal. If so, it should be supplied forthwith.
I do not know that I should go as far as the right hon. Member in saying that the whole gallery should be in the hands of an administrator instead of a man qualified, say, in art criticism—that is a wider question; but I entirely agree that there must, obviously, be a stronger administrative team at the disposal of the trustees.
I have only one point to mention about the quotations from Mr. Sutherland. They are very illuminating, but it should be put upon record that as far as one can see he remained a member of the board of trustees for many years at a time when these matters were being dealt with and canvassed. It was only after the matter reached the public that Mr. Sutherland came out in the open and resigned. I do not necessarily blame him for that, but in fairness to his fellow trustees, the directors, this should be mentioned.
I am one of those who rather veers to the side of dispersing the pictures. although I agree that where there is a great national collection which is intended to show the history of art by exhibiting the pictures, we do not want to carry the principle of dispersal too far. We can, however, go a certain way in dispersion, for the very reason that we have such confidence in the directors of the galleries and in the boards of trustees.
While there have been criticisms over the administration of the Tate Gallery, I 2306 certainly join with the Financial Secretary and others in expressing great thanks to these boards of trustees and their directors for their remarkable success in running galleries and arranging exhibitions. But naturally, as specialists, the directors may be too inclined to collect immense quantities of stuff in their galleries, rather like magpies do in their nests. They should be encouraged to be a little more adventurous in spreading the pictures around. After all, the pictures are intended primarily to be looked at and enjoyed. A great many pictures, particularly English pictures, were painted for private houses—"furniture" pictures, as they are sometimes called—and they are not seen at their best when cluttered together in enormous galleries.
In my view, a lot of sculpture is tolerable only in the open air, and preferably in a hot climate. I very much regret that there is not more sculpture in the open air of London, in the streets and public squares, and I should deplore an indefinite collection of sculpture in galleries. While on the subject of dispersal, I should send the Lane pictures back to Dublin and the Elgin Marbles back to Greece, because I do not believe that we really are justified in keeping them here, and I think they would be more appreciated in Ireland and Greece.
I join with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) and others in pleading for more space, both for the galleries and also for exhibitions. But if more space is to be provided at the present site of the Tate Gallery, I wonder whether the Minister could get in touch with London Transport to see whether they cannot improve their services. Considering that the Tate Gallery is fairly central to London, it is particularly difficult to get to it. The Minister might also consider whether exhibitions could not be held rather further east. There is, of course, an admirable gallery in White-chapel, but I am thinking rather of the area of the City. Could not exhibitions be held in places like the Mansion House? A great many people who work daily in the City find difficulty in getting to the West End.
I should like to ask a question on Clause 2. I do not know whether the Minister is prepared to say anything 2307 further about the policy of allocating pictures between the Tate and the National Galleries; it is a peculiarly difficult matter. For instance, Turner and Constable are represented largely at the Tate. In my view, they are our best or among our three or four best painters. If the Tate continues to accumulate more modern pictures, is it intended eventually to put the Turners and the Constables over to the National Gallery, or to send some of the Turners, for instance, to Edinburgh, where they were on exhibition at one time and where, as they have a local interest, they were very much appreciated?
Clause 3 allows the Treasury to allocate pictures. Is there to be any time limit? Once the Treasury has made an allocation, I suppose that it is a final allocation. In addition, the Clause allows allocations only to certain galleries which are named in the First Schedule. I am not sure that this is necessary. Why, for instance, should the Treasury not allocate pictures to the great art galleries in, say, Liverpool or Birmingham? Is the First Schedule really necessary?
The main controversy of the Bill centres around Clause 4. I should like to see the date in subsection (2) put back to 1600, for I do not think that there are a great many pictures of the 17th Century which are on wood or which are particularly likely to be damaged in transit, and I do not see why the year 1700 has been chosen. As the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) said, there are a great many 17th Century pictures which foreign exhibitions would be very glad to have from this country. I am not clear why British pictures painted before 1700, which is the date now included in the Bill, can be lent abroad but foreign pictures cannot.
On the vexed question of whether pictures should be sent out to embassies and Government houses, my view is that they should, bearing in mind that, obviously, one would not send out a Leonardo da Vinci from the National Gallery or break up the great collections and spread them all round the world. But the arguments which have been put forward for furnishing public buildings are extremely persuasive.
2308 The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central made the very interesting suggestion that the Ministry of Works should buy more. I entirely agree with him, but when he went on to say that, had they been allowed to do so in the past, we should by now have had a wonderful collection of French Impressionists, I felt he was too optimistic. It is far more likely that we should have had a wonderful collection of stags and woolly dogs painted by Landseer. This brings me to the question of who is going to decide what to buy or exhibit in these buildings. Is it going to be left to the Ministry of Works to decide on the hanging of pictures in embassies, or is a committee going to deal with the actual allocation and hanging of any pictures sent abroad?
The Minister attached great importance to the provision which allows students or those engaged in research to go and look at the pictures which are hung in embassies, but I do not see why it should be confined only to students and those engaged in research. Why should not any member of the public with, of course, reasonable safeguards and at reasonable times, be entitled to go to a British embassy and look at any good pictures that may be there? I am not suggesting that the whole embassy should be open to the public, but, surely, some rooms could quite conveniently be open to members of the public if they want to see the pictures that are there.
I would certainly support the hanging of pictures in Lancaster House and other buildings to which the public have access. I very much hope that a good many British pictures will remain in the houses for which they were painted, and to which the public are now admitted. That seems to be a very good development and one which should be extended, not only to private houses, but to public buildings and embassies.
I should like to have seen some provision in the Bill to the effect that if the trustees of the galleries have a number of secondary pictures, drawings or etchings which they have not exhibited for a considerable time, then there should be a sale of them. I do not like these things being locked up, because that does not do any good at all.
2309 It may be that, since the powers of lending are very wide, we shall see these lesser pictures, drawings and etchings put out to public buildings. I think they would be rather appropriate, because I am sure that we do not want all such buildings done up in grandiose and heavy fashion. There are a great many rather agreeable lesser pictures for which a place could very well be found in public buildings and smaller galleries. But if that is not going to be done, then I think that it would be better to sell them rather than to keep them locked up in our bigger public galleries.
One of the most serious things today is that so few people are buying pictures at all. Obviously, the reason is that many of them are too expensive for the average person. But the more pictures that circulate, the better. If pictures are not being exhibited, it would surely do no harm to give trustees the power to sell them, when they might possibly find their way into houses or smaller galleries where they would be appreciated.
§ 12.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
It is a rather remarkable fact that we have conducted our debate this morning in a slightly more friendly atmosphere than was possible when the same Bill was debated in another place. However, in the speeches that have so far been made, we have tended, I think, to overlook the fact that this Bill is still arousing a good deal of opposition outside, particularly among art critics and art historians who are most interested in the subject matter of the Bill.
It is true that the Bill as it now stands is very different from that which was originally presented. The new powers of sale which were originally included have now been deleted, and the powers of sale under the 1856 Act are now in the process of being repealed. The new powers to loan have remained, but they have been considerably modified by various restrictions on the type of pictures that may be sent abroad and the conditions under which they may be exhibited.
I think it right that we should have regard to the existence of outside criticisms. What we have to ask ourselves is whether they are reasonable or unreasonable. The purist would say that it is better that even an obscure picture 2310 should remain in its own gallery so that the one critic in 10 years who might ask to see it should find it where he expects, rather than that it should be sent abroad to an exhibition or to an embassy where thousands would be able to enjoy it.
The same purist might say that, rather than risk a single picture being damaged in any way, we should prevent by law the despatch of any picture at all from our collections, for however short a period, to any exhibition or public building. This is an extreme view, but we in this House should be reluctant to override it, since it is held seriously and deeply by many scholars, without advancing some very good reasons for doing so.
I must not mislead the House into thinking that this attitude of non-co-operation on the Bill is one which is shared by very many of these scholars of whom I am speaking. For instance, the "Burlington Magazine," which is probably the chief organ of art historians and scholars, supports in general terms the provisions of the major part of the Bill as it now stands. All the same, I think that we should sort out in our own minds what exactly we are trying to do with these national art collections.
Do we, as one of my hon. Friends asked just now, think of them as a library, and, if so, what sort of library? Do we think of them as a lending library, or as a library such as that at the British Museum from which no books or manuscripts can in any circumstances be removed? I believe that under certain conditions and in certain cases we must regard the Tate and the National Galleries as lending libraries.
It would be quite wrong if the City of Norwich, for example, were organising an exhibition of Cotmans, their own county artist, and if it were not possible for the Tate to enrich that exhibition by lending temporarily from their own collections examples of Cotman's art. In the same way, I think it would be wrong if we did not allow, under the proper supervision which this Bill gives, pictures to be loaned from among the less valuable in our collections to embassies, and, possibly, to colonial residences abroad.
The purist might say that such action is a completely unwarrantable breach of 2311 the purposes for which the National Gallery was established, and that he would not allow such loans to be made, first, because the pictures might be damaged in transit or hung in unsuitable climates or buildings, and, secondly, because the very loaning of them would deny to scholars the facility to see them at any time they wished.
I believe that these objections are exaggerated. Naturally, there is a danger of damage when any picture leaves its gallery, but so is there a danger when it remains in it, danger from damage by fire or a leaking roof, from the cotton wool of the picture restorer, and even from the knife of the iconoclast. Of course, when pictures leave their galleries, such dangers are increased, but not to an unreasonable degree.
I think the House will remember that during the war almost all the best pictures in the National Gallery were removed to safety in the Welsh caves, and it is a fact that not one of the great masterpieces was in the least damaged as a result. Can one honestly say that the carriage of a picture to a foreign exhibition or embassy is very much more of a risk than the carriage and storing of pictures during the war? I do not think one can.
As for access, it is not, to the best of my knowledge, considered to be unfortunate that some of the best masterpieces of painting are in private collections, where they are less far less accessible to view by scholars and by the general public than will be pictures loaned under the terms of the Bill. Therefore, I accept the principle of the controversial Clause 4.
But I am worried about the width of the powers given to the trustees in executing the principles of the Clause. Those powers have already been modified in another place. The date 1700 has been introduced as a limitation on what they may or may not loan, and today, even at this late stage, we must consider whether it is not advisable that we should introduce into this Bill—as we did into the Television Bill—certain other rules of guidance.
After all, the object of such a Bill as this, besides providing the framework for the general law, is twofold. In it we have to provide a reminder of the intentions of Parliament in passing it. If we 2312 did not read the debates of 1883, for example, we should have no idea that the purpose of the National Gallery (Loan) Act of that year was to enable the National Gallery to rid itself of many of the worthless pictures wished on it by unscrupulous testators. Twenty, or fifty years from now this present Bill will be interpreted entirely by what it says, and even the Ministerial statements which accompanied it will be forgotten.
There is another reason. We must provide the trustees of the two galleries with an adequate defence against exorbitant demands from the Ministry of Works, backed by the Treasury, or from foreign exhibitors or even from our own exhibitors at home. We must put into the Bill some more exact description of the conditions under which pictures may be loaned—and of the type of picture which may be loaned.
Naturally, I am not suggesting that we should incorporate as a third or fourth schedule to the Bill a list of foreign galleries and buildings to which pictures may be sent, nor a list of pictures which, owing to their value, may never be sent under any condition at all. But there are one or two things I would like to see written into the Bill which would limit the powers of the trustees in a way in which they themselves might welcome.
First, we should state very exactly that pictures shall be loaned only to foreign exhibitions of international artistic importance; and, second, that no picture above a certain commercial value shall be loaned abroad. The value would, of course, be higher in the case of pictures loaned to exhibitions, and lower when loaned to embassies. Third, we should insert a Clause to fix the maximum number of pictures loanable from the Tate and the National Galleries at any one time. Fourth, we should say that no picture should be loaned for more than a certain number of times within a given period.
It may be said, quite reasonably, that with these figures we are introducing purely arbitrary guesses. That is certainly so, but the date 1700 is also arbitrary. Whether or not that date is amended to 1600, as the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) has suggested, it is a purely arbitrary date inserted to give guidance to the trustees in the way they want to be guided. So also are my suggestions.
2313 There are two further ways in which we should limit the powers of the trustees. We should not make it possible for them, or for their successors, to loan any of the very valuable collection of 18th century pastels which, at the moment, are in the National Gallery, and which are particularly vulnerable to any climatic change. Secondly, like the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, I should like to know why the date 1700 is limited to works of foreign artists and not extended to cover British pictures as well. It is slightly absurd that, under the present terms of the Bill, it would be possible to loan to Nairobi a contemporary portrait of Queen Elizabeth I painted upon a panel, but impossible to loan to The Hague a 17th century Dutch landscape of no particular importance. In the remaining stages of the Bill we might remedy that slight discrepancy.
I do not think that the trustees would be embarrassed by such limitations as I have proposed. They would still have a wide discretion. Just as their predecessors made no use of the powers contained in the 1856 Act, so today the trustees need make no use at all of the powers we may grant to them today.
The most important of their powers, however, would be their ability to resist the combined pressure of the Ministry of Works and the Treasury. Pulling in the opposite direction they would have the pressure of the whole art world, which would attempt to influence them against making loans of valuable pictures for long periods. The trustees of these Galleries are men not only of wide knowledge of the arts but also of ordinary human commonsense. They would not loan the Wilton diptych, for instance, to a foreign exhibition, when they know that the wood on which it is painted is very vulnerable to a climatic change, nor would they send works of prime importance to remote places.
We have two duties here today. The first is to preserve for posterity our immensely valuable collections made in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Our second duty is to make it possible, under the conditions which we lay down in this Bill, for some of these pictures to go abroad and into more distant parts of our own country, where they may give even more pleasure and instruction than they do when hanging on the walls of 2314 the galleries to which they were originally attached.
§ 12.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)
May I first congratulate the Financial Secretary on his felicitous introduction of the Bill? I am sure he will agree that he is fortunate that the first Bill which he has to introduce concerns a subject so near to his own heart. Like my hon. Friends on this side, I welcome the general provisions of the Bill. We are glad to see the anomalous position of the Tate Gallery cleared up at last, and to see the pictures on the walls vested in the trustees themselves.
Before coming to my main objections, there are one or two minor points about which I should like to ask the Financial Secretary. Clause 2 (2, b) refers to the desirabilityof maintaining in the Tate Gallery a collection of British pictures and a collection of modern pictures,I understood that the Tate Gallery had a third function, that of maintaining a collection of modern sculpture, and I should like to know if that is a deliberate omission or just an oversight.
Subsection (4) deals with the committee to which shall be referred disputes between the two boards of trustees. Is this to be a standing committee set up as from the enactment of this Bill, or is a committee to be set up ad hoc to deal with any particular dispute which may arise in the future? I hope that the committee will not be needed at all—and I think that it may well not be.
I want to say a word or two about the lending powers in Clause 4. I have no objection to, indeed, I cordially welcome the powers to lend for public exhibition both here and abroad. It is right that there should be a free interchange of masterpieces with other countries, and for too long has this been a one-way traffic so far as this country is concerned.
But I am worried about subsection (1. b) which deals with the loan of pictures to public buildings and official residences. "Public buildings" is a very wide term, and I presume that it would include, for instance, a place like the Treasury or the Foreign Office. It does not only mean buildings to which there is public access. Much as I want to see 2315 the Treasury pleasantly adorned with good pictures, I do not think that our national art collections are the right source on which to draw.
I think the same considerations apply to official residences. I know that at the moment there are pictures at 10, Downing Street from the National and Tate Galleries, as to which I believe there exists no statutory power whatever of loan, and, in a sense, this section of the Bill has probably been designed to legitimise the position. But like my hon. Friend I think that pictures for our official residences ought to be drawn from the Ministry of Works pool.
This pool of pictures should be far larger. The previous Minister of Works was very fortunate in getting gifts and loans from private collectors. I think private collectors were extremely generous to him, but I do not believe that that is the right way to stock this pool. The Minister ought to have adequate funds provided by the Treasury, and I hope that they in their turn will be more generous towards him. This pool need not only deal with contemporary British art. The Minister ought to be in a position to buy other pictures. Whether or not he ought to have an expert committee to advise him on this subject is, perhaps, open to question, but I think it might be as well if he had.
I am even more disturbed about the suggestion of lending pictures to the residences of Colonial Governments. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) suggested to me that this might prove to be a policy not of lend-lease but of lend-lose, and I think there is probably something in that. In fact, there might be a case for limiting the loan of pictures under this Bill, apart from public exhibitions, to the United Kingdom. Like the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Nicolson), I should like to see some limitations to those powers of lending. I do not think I would go all the way with him, but I certainly think there should be a limitation both on the number of pictures on loan at any one time and on the maximum period of loan. I warn the Financial Secretary that he will probably find some amendments in Committee.
2316 The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) suggested that we on this side of the House were proposing that official residences should have no pictures at all on the walls. Of course, that is a travesty of what we say. We merely say that national collections are not the right place on which to draw for this purpose.
The argument has been put forward that these wide lending powers are needed because of the lack of space in our national galleries at the moment. It is said that there are masses of pictures in the basements which nobody ever sees. Of course, that is not quite true, because these pictures are always available to students. I believe that in the Tate Gallery they are available at 24 hours' notice only. I agree that many of them should not be in the basements, and it is disgraceful that 10 years after the war there are still eight or nine rooms in the National Gallery closed to the public.
Furthermore, I should like to underline a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central. It is equally disgraceful that only one room in the National Gallery has air conditioning. I understand that before the war a plan was drawn up for air conditioning throughout the National Gallery. Surely, the time has now been reached when this plan can be implemented. I believe I am right in saying that more than one masterpiece has been damaged beyond repair because of the constantly changing atmospheric conditions in the National Gallery. I know that air conditioning is expensive, but so is the national collection of paintings. I think that if we weigh these considerations in the balance, we will see that money must be found for completing this plan of air conditioning. Equally I understand there was planned before the war an extension to the Tate Gallery. Cannot the Financial Secretary give some encouraging word about the future progress of this plan?
Reference has been made to the controversy which has been raging over the last year or so in connection with the administration of the Tate Gallery. I think it is arguable whether it is advantageous or not to discuss this matter on the Second Reading of this Bill. Indeed, "The Times" this morning said that it would be unfortunate if this debate were made the excuse for opening 2317 old wounds. But the wounds have never healed, and there are people who have seen to it that those wounds have not had a chance to heal. I think, on balance, that it is as well that we should face this criticism squarely and ask the Financial Secretary to deal with it in his winding up speech.
Since the director of the gallery is the person actually responsible, within the general responsibility of the trustees, I think it is important that we should examine his position. I want to consider the subject from two aspects—first, his position relative to the trustees; and secondly, his position relative to the public at large. Let me say at once that I regard myself as a member of the public; but also, as a Member of this House, I have felt it my duty to try to find my way through this labyrinth of innuendo, criticism, accusation and counter-accusation. Unlike the Financial Secretary, I cannot say that I have wholly succeeded. I certainly would not claim to know all the answers. Indeed, I hope he does.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) said, Sir John Rothenstein is an established civil servant, and as such he is unable to answer publicly and personally criticisms which are publicly made against his competence, character or conduct. The duty of defending him falls upon the trustees, so far as the public is concerned. It falls upon the Chancellor so far as this House is concerned. I must say that it has been my impression that the Chancellor and the previous Financial Secretary have rather sought to side-step and evade the criticism of the administration of the Tate in this House, rather than to face it and answer it. The Financial Secretary has an admirable opportunity of putting that right this afternoon. My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall asked some very pertinent questions, and I hope the answers will be forthcoming.
It is difficult to say what are the allegations that have been made. They have been couched in somewhat vague terms. First of all, there were suggestions that the trust funds had been misused in some sinister way, but then when the explanation was made publicly by the Trustees of the Tate the attack switched to 2318 criticism of specific purchases. In particular, there was reference to the delightful little Degas bronze of the Dancing Girl. Then there was criticism about the sale of the Renoir nude in, I think, 1944 for which there was a perfectly good explanation. When that explanation was made, the attack was switched to staff troubles in the Tate, and some rather exaggerated figures were given about the turnover in the senior staff since the war. Now, as my right hon. Friend mentioned, it is hinted that the director has not got the confidence of the present trustees.
I should think that undoubtedly the director of the Tate Gallery has made mistakes; it would be inconceivable if he had not. Both he and the trustees must share responsibility for the muddle over the Trust Fund, for example. There have been some staff difficulties, but I should like to know where, in the art world, there have not.
I am sure that every purchase has not met with universal approval, but in any case the Director does not in the normal way make purchases. His advice is available to the trustees and is sometimes accepted and sometimes rejected. I have been able to discover no evidence which could possibly justify the sustained and planned campaign which has been carried on against the director by a small group of persons in and around the London art world.
These men are apparently actuated by a variety of motives, amongst which we must include, on the part of some of them, a sense of public duty. But we, as hon. Members, and the public generally, at any rate, should look with some caution upon a campaign which has been led by a dismissed senior official of the Tate Gallery—a man who was dismissed not by the director but by the trustees. Our caution should be redoubled when we learn that the group includes two unsuccessful applications for appointments at the Tate Gallery.
Among a number of persons relatively unknown to the general public there has figured in this group one man of world wide reputation. I have the greatest regard for Graham Sutherland as a painter. I recognise that he has brought very great lustre to British painting during the last 10 or 15 years, and I am sure that hon. Members are looking forward with eagerness to his latest portrait.
2319 He was a trustee of the Tate for six years before he resigned. His resignation was not exactly made discreetly; it was, indeed, attended by the maximum publicity. In my view it is a pity that he has involved himself so deeply in this controversy.
Looking at as many of the facts as one can discover in this argument, it seems clear that there have not been altogether happy relations at times between the director and at least one or two of the trustees. The point I want to make is that the facts in this situation can be known only to the trustees themselves. The public cannot know, and I think it would be very ill-advised to guess. The only information we have to go on is that which Mr. Sutherland has rather freely provided in letters to the Press, including the letter a fortnight ago to the "New Statesmen and Nation" to which my right hon. Friend referred, and which left a somewhat unpleasant taste in my mouth. In my view it was wholly wrong, indeed quite improper, to quote the views of unnamed trustees—perhaps expressed in private letters—and to suggest that the trustees once contemplated resigning en masse. So far as I am concerned and, I think, so far as the public ought to be concerned, the trustees did not resign en masse, nor have they ever issued any public statement on this matter. Unless and until they do so it would be wholly wrong to assume that the director had lost the confidence of the trustees.
Before I leave this aspect of the matter I want to say a word about the trustees themselves. They, too, have come in for some criticism, but, as the Financial Secretary said, they are a body of very distinguished and busy men who are giving time and energy in a very valuable public service, for which the nation ought to be grateful to them. Experience has shown, however, that they may have to answer public criticism from time to time, and I would ask the House whether it is wise that the chairman of the trustees should be a civil servant. Is it right that a civil servant should he placed in a position where he has to answer the cut and thrust of public controversy?
I need hardly mention that this is no reflection of any kind upon the present chairman. I know that Mr. Proctor is a very distinguished public servant and, I believe, an excellent chairman, but the 2320 principle of the matter is worth looking into. I understand that the present method is for the trustees to elect their own chairman from among their number. Might it not be worth considering whether it would be preferable for the chairman to be appointed as such by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a fixed term of years, in much the same way as the Minister of Health appoints chairmen of regional hospital boards?
I should now like to refer briefly to the position of the director of the Tate Gallery in relation to the public. I believe that the 16 years of service of the present director represents a success story. It can be read by anybody in the Review of the Tate Gallery from 1938 to 1953. The gallery was badly bombed during the war, but it has been rehabilitated and its collections have been enlarged until, today, it is undoubtedly among the leading galleries of the world.
In my view the presentation and display of the pictures there are absolutely first-class, and there is about the gallery an atmosphere of liveliness and purpose which must be apparent to anyone who visits it. Its special exhibitions, some though by no means all of which are arranged by the Arts Council, have been particularly stimulating and successful. For all this much of the credit must go to the director, and it has all been achieved at a ludicrously small cost to public funds. I am sure that this is what should primarily concern us, rather than the complex squabbles and petty jealousies of the art world. After all the trustees are the people who are responsible to the public for the administration of the Tate Gallery, and should not we rely upon them to act if action is necessary?
Surely the one thing we cannot permit is for a group of persons outside to attempt, for various motives, to arrogate to themselves some of the functions of the trustees? I hope that today's debate will see an end of this campaign. If no more is said, there is a good chance of the Tate Gallery settling down and of good relations being established all round. I hope that those who are responsible will drop the campaign now. In my view it is most unlikely to succeed in what I conceive to be its main object, and in the end it can only do damage to the 2321 Tate Gallery and to the reputation of British art.
§ 1.18 p.m.
§ Sir Alfred Bossom (Maidstone)
I shall not detain the House for more than a very few minutes, but as I was once chairman of foreign exhibitions in the United States and used to invite foreign exhibitions to come to that country in the early 1920s, I have a little practical experience which I want to put on record.
The previous speaker emphasised the need for air conditioning. I assure the House that there is nothing more important that we can do than properly and thoroughly to air-condition both the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery. It is of such great importance that it cannot be overstressed. I know one very fine Dutch picture—painted on a panel —which only last year split right across, due to the absence of air-conditioning. It was not part of either the Tate or National Gallery exhibitions, but it was in a very important place, The greatest trouble had to he taken to put the damage right and even now the picture is not as good as it should be.
Following on in that same spirit, careful consideration should be given before we lend pictures, particularly early ones painted on panels, to countries where the temperature is very damp or very variable, unless the rooms in which they are to be placed are properly air-conditioned. That introduces a further trouble. In conveying panel pictures from one country to another one encounters tremendous difficulties. They ought to be carried, as they very seldom are, on a horizontal plane so far as possible so that they are not shaken, because an old panel picture that is shaken about nearly always suffers damage.
I said that I would speak for not more than a minute or so, and I do not want to detain the House, so I will conclude now by reminding the House that at both the Tate Gallery and the National Gallery there are many pictures stored that are not shown in public, and by suggesting that it would be a very great blessing to many of our provincial cities if those pictures could be lent for viewing there. Some of them could be appropriately shown in certain of our embassies and places of that sort instead 2322 of some of the most valuable pictures that we have.
The very valuable pictures we have are the most precious possessions we have in the art world, and I cannot over-emphasise the responsibility that we as Members of Parliament hold in looking after them. We cannot make too great efforts to preserve these precious assets for the generations that will come after us.
§ 1.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
I wish to support briefly the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) who, in a very temperate way, answered some of the criticisms made about the administration of the Tate Gallery. He was correct in saying that the test of a gallery's success is its effect on the public and what it has done; and it is very remarkable that during the directorship of the present director some 1,000 pictures have been acquired and that the cost has been only about £20,000, many of the pictures being well above the average of the standard of quality of the other pictures collected at the Gallery in previous years.
The Blake collection at the Tate Gallery is supposed to be one of the prized parts of the whole collection, and yet no addition had been made to it since 1922 until the present director came into his office. Now the size of the collection has been more than doubled. There have been some 60 exhibitions at the Tate Gallery over the last 10 years or so, most of them since the end of the war. About a third of that number have been run by the Tate Gallery with its very small staff; others with the assistance of the Tate staff. Some have been put on by the Arts Council, and no one would deny it credit for what it has done; but it has been the general inspiration of the administration of the Tate Gallery that has made these exhibitions popular and possible.
Before the war the Tate was a moribund institution. Scarcely anyone went to it. Now the attendances total over half a million a year. It seems a very curious time to be raising complaints against the director who has been responsible for this enormous improvement in the public interest in that Gallery.
2323 One of the difficulties of the director of the Tate Gallery is that he is concerned with modern art. If one is the director of the National Gallery one's problems are fairly simple. The painters of the pictures are all dead, and are not going to complain much if one hangs their pictures in the wrong places or does not hang them at all. The director of the Tate Gallery, however, is dealing all the time with modern and living painters. To some he accords exhibition there. Others he omits. Naturally, the feelings of living painters whose pictures may or may not have been acquired are somewhat stronger than those of dead painters. The director has to be able to cope with them all the time.
No doubt there were some irregularities in the administration of the trust funds, but all the trustees are equally responsible with the director for the misapplications, and nobody has ever suggested that there was anything criminal about the misapplications of some of the trust funds. There was no more irregularity than there is in the fact that at 10. Downing Street, and at 11, Downing Street, are pictures hanging which ought by law not to be there at all. I have no doubt that some public-spirited person interested in the National Gallery or the Tate Gallery could have the Prime Minister's residence denuded of some of its best and most attractive pictures. However, there is no venal or criminal offence involved at all.
It may be that in some way the director of the Tate Gallery is not always in harmony with some of his staff, but then that sort of want of harmony occurs in many institutions, and it may not necessarily be the fault of the man at the top that he is having occasional disagreements with his staff.
I thought it was very odd that the campaign to which my hon. Friend referred should have been started off by a letter written to the director in which it was announced to him that the authors of the campaign proposed to hound him out of the Tate Gallery. If the Government and the House of Commons were to allow odd groups of neurotics to get together to hound the directors of institutions out of their offices it would be a very sad thing, and I hope we shall not permit anything of the sort to happen.
2324 Some of those who have made criticisms have been very sincere and know a great dealt of what they have been talking about, and I think the criticisms began in a much more moderate way, the critics pointing out certain improvements that could be made. Nobody could have any complaint about that, but the criticism of the National Gallery and Tate Gallery which began in that way soon developed into a vehicle for spite and calumny of a sort that we have not seen in public life in this country for many years.
It is sometimes said that politicians intrigue against each other and are unkind and uncharitable to each other, but it seems from what artists and art critics say about each other in the columns of "The Times," the "New Statesman" and the "Daily Telegraph," that we emerge in a very respectable and sober light, compared with a great deal of that. The senior official to whom my hon. Friend referred, who was dismissed by the trustees, immediately moved from the Tate Gallery to the offices of the "Daily Express" newspaper, whence he continued with some intensification the campaign already started.
Reference has been made to a proposition advanced by Mr. Graham Sutherland that the trustees of the Tate Gallery have sometimes not been altogether happy about the director. I understand that, whatever they may have thought in the past, the trustees of the Tate Gallery are perfectly satisfied with the director now, and have every confidence in him, and I think that the Financial Secretary should confirm that today in quite emphatic terms.
The trustees do have confidence in the director. Of course, they may have been disturbed, as other people were, with the irregularities in the administration of the trust funds when they were first disclosed. They were investigated by Sir Edward Ritson, who was appointed by the Government to investigate the whole of that matter, but he at the end made no suggestion of improper conduct by anybody. I think that that has probably satisfied the trustees of the Tate Gallery, and that it should satisfy us.
Perhaps for its own sake the Tate Gallery should now return permanently to its pre-war habit of issuing an annual report. It is rather a pity that we have 2325 had to wait from 1938 until 1954 to have an annual report on the activities of the Tate Gallery; and this annual report, although admirable and interesting, contains the reports for 16 years in one. It is not unfair to suggest that perhaps the Tate Gallery is itself partly to be blamed that all these criticisms have been allowed to mount and to go unchecked. That happens if one does not have an annual report, in which criticisms can be answered seriatim as they occur. If they are not, public disquiet is likely to grow.
I hope that now we can allow the Tate Gallery to get on with the job that it has so successfully been doing, and I hope that the campaign of calumny will be dropped, and that the Government will do what they should have done some time ago, that is to deal with the main points in the campaign, and state quite clearly their confidence in the trustees and their confidence in the director, because if they have not confidence in the trustees and have not confidence in the director they should dismiss all of them. If they have confidence in them they should say so.
§ 1.30 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Hyde (Belfast, North)
I am very happy to find myself in agreement with so much that has been said in this debate about the Tate Gallery, particularly by the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) and also the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson).
The Tate Gallery, unquestionably, has made amazing strides since 1939, when I think the last appointment of a director was made. As we have heard, it is to start a new life, and the purpose of the Bill is to enable that start to be made in the best circumstances. The Tate Gallery is the largest gallery of pictures in the British Commonwealth. There are more than 4,200 pictures there, and unquestionably it has attracted the attention of art lovers from all over the world. Much of that credit must go to the director. It is right, also, that under this Bill the legal ownership of pictures which have been in the Tate and are there today should now be legally vested in the trustees.
I endorse as warmly as I can the view which has been expressed and which I hope that my hon. Friend, when he winds 2326 up the debate will express—the confidence which I certainly feel, and which other hon. Members share, in the director, in spite of the campaign which has been waged against him and his administration of this great gallery.
Before coming to my main observation I wish to make about the Bill, there are one or two small points I wish to mention in passing. Clause 6 refers to the abrogation of power to sell works of art in the National Gallery, which power was originally conferred on the gallery. We have been told that it has not been exercised very frequently. I cannot help wondering whether it is wise to abrogate the power altogether and whether it should not be retained, subject to certain well-defined limitations, such as Treasury consent, the laying of a Statutory Instrument and so on. It is not by any means inconceivable that the trustees of one or other of the galleries might wish to buy a superior work of an artist whose works are in its collection and, in order to get the necessary funds to do so, it may be necessary to sell one of the more inferior works of that artist in the collection.
The proposal that powers which hitherto have been exercised in respect of works of art abroad should be extended seems admirable, particularly in regard to the loan of foreign pictures to British embassies and legations abroad and also, I imagine, to the establishments of High Commissioners in the Dominions and Governors of Colonies. It is particularly appropriate that from time to time foreign pictures should be lent to embassies or legations, the works of artists living in the countries to which the embassies or legations are accredited. That would be a very graceful gesture which would be appreciated in the countries of which the artists are natives.
The main thing I wish to say concerns Clauses 3 and 5. My observations apply to both those Clauses. Clause 3 deals with the allocation of gifts and bequests, and Clause 5 concerns powers to transfer works of art from the Tate Gallery to other institutions. The allocations and bequests and power to transfer from the Tate are indicated as applicable to a number of museums and other institutions specified in the First Schedule. I am very glad to see the galleries of 2327 Scotland and Wales in that Schedule, but why is there no mention of the art gallery in Northern Ireland? Why has Northern Ireland been omitted? Northern Ireland is every bit as much a part of the United Kingdom as Scotland or Wales, but it seems to have been ignored by the framers of this Measure.
I see the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Healy) and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Beattie) on the benches opposite. I am sure that, for once, I shall have their cordial support for what I have just said. In the art gallery in Belfast we very badly need pictures. It is a small gallery, consisting almost entirely of works by Ulster artists, all modern who in their way are eminent, like Sir John Lavery, Frank McKelvey, William Conor and Humbert Craig, but we need more pictures.
The reason we have so few pictures in the art gallery in Ulster is that under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, which resulted in the partition of Ireland, Northern Ireland was not given what I think she should have been given —her share in the works of art in the National Gallery of Ireland, in Dublin. The Irish Free State, which later became the Irish Republic, was permitted to retain all the works in that collection. That is why that we are so short of modern and other paintings in Northern Ireland and why we would appreciate being included in the appropriate Schedule to this Bill.
I think the two hon. Members opposite will also agree that this seems an excellent opportunity to do something effective about what is known as the Lane pictures, or the Lane Bequest. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) thought that the Lane pictures should be given back to Ireland. I am in agreement with that expression of opinion. I do not want to recapitulate the details of the Lane controversy, but perhaps I may remind the House that the late Sir Hugh Lane, a great collector and connoisseur, and a great promoter of art in his native country, died in the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. For some years previously he had collected 39 pictures by French modern and impressionist artists such as Renoir, Manet and Degas 2328 which he intended to be placed in the gallery in Dublin, which he was instrumental in founding in the early years of the century.
For a time these pictures were in that gallery, which was only a temporary gallery. Sir Hugh Lane then lent them to the National Gallery and made a will in which he bequeathed them to the National Gallery, but a few days before he sailed for America on his last, ill-fated voyage he made a codicil to his will in which he left the pictures back to the City of Dublin. This codicil was unattested, that is it was not witnessed, and it had no legal validity, but the care with which it was drawn up and the intentions which Sir Hugh expressed to various individuals before he sailed on his fatal voyage left no doubt that he wished these pictures to go back to Dublin. This matter is entirely non-party political; it is a matter upon which that great lawyer, Lord Carson, and Mr. John Redmond agreed, and I am certain that hon. Members opposite would also agree.
It seems that here is an opportunity to put right a wrong which we feel to have been done in both the North and the South of Ireland. I do not suggest that we should put in the Bill that these pictures should straightaway be handed over to Dublin, but it might be included in the First Schedule that the Tate Gallery trustees should have power—a purely permissive power—to transfer these pictures. I do not think that suggestion could meet insuperable objections on the part of the Treasury.
The pictures themselves were transferred by the National Gallery to the Tate Gallery, and more than half—I think 20 of the 39 are at present on exhibition in the Tate Gallery. Some others are to be seen in the National Gallery. It is not true, therefore, contrary to what has been said, that these pictures are kept in a cellar and that one has to make a special appointment in order to see them. I am satisfied that the collection is being properly and adequately maintained by the director and the staff of the Tate Gallery, but of course this does not satisfy our claim that these pictures should be returned to their rightful home, and I hope that an opportunity will be taken in this Bill to achieve that purpose.
§ 1.45 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Beattie (Belfast, West)
This is a unique moment in my political life. I never thought that I should live to see the time when I was in full agreement with a representative of my political opponents. But the hon. and gallant Member for Belfast, North (Lieut.-Colonel Hyde) has made the speech which I intended to make this morning, and all I will do, therefore, is cross the t's and dot the i's of what he said.
I should like to emphasise one point which he made concerning a very important little area in one part of Ireland. It is very difficult for me to understand the omission of Northern Ireland. On the other hand, it is quite easy for me to understand why there is no reference to the Lane collection and whether it should be returned to Dublin. I appeal for Northern Ireland to be included in the list in the First Schedule.
The Lane collection has been sometimes and in some atmospheres a very contentious question to raise. The Minister asked today that we should treat the Bill more as a christening than as an inquest. I have sat here quietly and patiently until I have wondered whether it is an inquest or a post mortem, because I have heard much criticism of the internal affairs of the National and Tate Gallery managements.
I thought that the Minister was reasonable and fair in what he said, and I hope he will consider me reasonable when I ask him to do what both sides of the House believe to be the right thing. We may not be able to justify our claim for the National Gallery in Ireland, but we can justify our statement that we know what was the intention of the owner of the Lane pictures, who put in writing a confirmation of his wishes. This controversy has continued for a long time, and I ask the Minister to extend the right hand of fellowship to his neighbours across the Irish Sea and to inform them that at long last we accept the justice of their claim. As a result of an omission, that claim may not have been legally justified, but I hope we shall say that the Lane collections should now rightly belong to the National Gallery in Dublin.
If we make that gesture of friendly neighbourliness on this question, we might develop other neighbourly feelings where we have common interests. Little contentious matters of the kind 2330 which have arisen about the destination of the Lane pictures sometimes create other difficulties. I ask the Minister, through the medium of representations from Northern Ireland on both sides of the House, to meet this request, and I believe that that neighbourly feeling will extend beyond the expectation of all hon. Members. I make that appeal jointly with the hon. and gallant Member for Belfast, North.
§ 1.49 p.m.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, who must be congratulated on his first appearance in charge of a Bill, must feel, as I feel, that there is something remarkable about the atmosphere of toleration, Liberalism and free trade which has characterised today's debate.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
Even the Socialism has been a little less protectionist than I have learned to expect over the last nine years.
It is a unique experience to find hon. Members from the North and from the South of Ireland, in spirit if not in geography, agreeing about the restitution of pictures to Dublin. And when the representative of the Liberal Party who, I presume, speaks officially for his party, requests it too, it is about time that this House and the Government took notice of the general feeling.
As a reactionary, back-bench Conservative I also share the view that it is fully time that those empty waiting rooms in Dublin were filled with the pictures that so rightly belong to them. If my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Lieut.-Colonel Hyde) wishes to test the issue and the feeling of this House, I suggest that he can do it by adding appropriate words to the First Schedule to the Bill on Committee stage next week.
I feel the same way about the Elgin Marbles. Although that matter has nothing whatever to do with the case, it was mentioned in passing by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). If we are to give pictures to Dublin we might do the same about the Marbles for Greece, and particularly the Caryatid. That is the loss they miss most. For 2,500 years on that site on 2331 the Acropolis the five Caryatides upheld the pediment of the Erechtheum, and for 100 years or more one of them has been in this country. We should send it back and then claim that we had satisfied the desire for Enosis with Greece as justly as we knew how.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I should like to say something about the alternatives mentioned by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), the circulation of works of art, or their dispersal. I thought that he over-stepped the limit by suggesting that there was a danger of going back to Mussolini, and all that. The most that I see that the Government or any of the directors of the Galleries intend is that certain selected works of art, appropriate to the locality and which can stand up to the climate, should be sent to furnish the houses of governors and ambassadors, and very few at that.
There is no question of dispersing the finest treasures of the National or Tate Galleries high, wide and handsome throughout our Colonial Empire or throughout the embassies of the 55 Members of the United Nations. When we have so much evidence of these pictures in store at the Tate and the National Galleries, I cannot see why some judicious selection cannot be made and added to the Ministry of Works pool and sent out, provided that the guarantees are effective.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central seemed to wish this House to devote more money to the Minister of Works so that he could buy more pictures, leaving aside the ones now stored away, perhaps in cellars and places where only art students can see them. I regard that as a waste of public money when the pictures are there, and I am glad to see in the Bill that arrangements are made about them.
§ Dr. Stross
I think that the noble Lord must have misheard me, or did not hear my qualification. I thought that I made 2332 it quite clear that what I had in mind was that we should have more space to show the collections more comprehensively than we do now, particularly in reference to the National Gallery. In stating that, I think that I am supported by public opinion throughout the whole country.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I listened to the hon. Gentleman with care and I noted his point about making more space available.
That is part of the answer, but I was specifically on this point, which perhaps did not so much come from him as others, that if we want to do this work of furnishing embassies and the residences of colonial governors, it must come out of some new funds voted to the Ministry of Works by this House. That would be a waste of public money, when we have so many of these pictures and drawings in our galleries now.
I hope to put down some Amendments to the Bill this week and, therefore, I shall not weary the House with details on Second Reading. I hope that the Government will examine the powers that Parliament retains in this Bill. It seems to me that their Lordships who, as we all know, are very knowledgeable about works of art, have poured their interest into the Bill in its passage through another place to such an extent that they have imported too much political and Parliamentary control into it. For example, is Clause 3 (4) really necessary, and if so, must it be in the form of an affirmative Resolution by both Houses of Parliament?
It would appear to me that Clause 4 has come from another place very badly arranged. It was quite clear from what was said there, particularly by Lord Crawford, that the trustees of these galleries do not wish to see these pictures going overseas and, therefore, that they will resist, as far as they can, any request to Britain to send pictures to exhibitions abroad. I think it much more likely that the requests will eventually take some sort of political form and that the Treasury will have to intervene to suggest, gently but firmly, to the trustees that, in these days of necessary propaganda, it is extremely important to send these pictures for public exhibition, even at some risk.
2333 That being so, I would re-arrange Clause 4 so that the first application for a picture conies to the trustees who are, according to subsection (4) to satisfy themselves on certain conditions. Then, if they still are reluctant to send these pictures abroad, the Treasury should have the power to intervene on a negative Resolution in the House and in Committee I propose to move to omit subsection (2) and to insert another subsection later in the Clause which will remove a possibility of deadlock.
I think that Clause 4 (5) is quite unrealistic, especially as regards the public exhibition of pictures in an official residence. It is difficult enough for the Prime Minister to allow students to see the pictures in No. 10, Downing Street, on Saturdays and Sundays, though I am told that visits can be made on application. It is impossible to imagine a situation where the governor of a Colony, which is perhaps in some serious state of disturbance, can give licence to students to visit his house to see the pictures in his drawing rooms.
How can the Ambassador in the British Embassy in Cairo in a building at present surrounded by scores of security police possibly allow students purporting to be genuine students to walk round to view the pictures on the walls?
§ Mr. N. Nicolson
Why does my hon. Friend take the most extreme instance? Surely he thinks that it is a good thing that students should be allowed, wherever possible, to see pictures, and he does not think that the pictures should be locked away for years on end.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I did not suggest that they should be locked away for years on end. That is why I do not agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite who were so frightened about dispersal.
My conception is that the pictures will remain in circulation but, instead of that circulation taking place entirely in this country and being confined to the national and one or two provincial galleries, it will be within a much wider circumference. Pictures will move from one residence to another within a generation or less. I cannot see why we should think that they will be locked away where nobody can see them. But the subsection at present gives an absolute right. It 2334 says that it shall be the duty of the authority responsible to see that such pictures are displayed. I can imagine considerable conflict with the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office on the right given there. However, that question can be argued very much more easily in Committee.
On Clause 6, I should like to ask again whether it is necessary to abrogate the right of the National Gallery Trustees to sell pictures. Does that apply only to the National Gallery and not to the Tate Gallery? Does the right for them to sell pictures remain? If so, it vitiates the effect of Clause 6. All the National Gallery has to do is to transfer back to the Tate Gallery, which then has the right to sell. In that way pictures can be sold. Either the Clause is not sufficiently watertight, or, if it is, it will result in a lot of pictures being retained unnecessarily by the State.
Finally, I should like to comment on the so-called "row" at the Tate. I was glad to hear two hon. Gentlemen opposite speak as they did. They examined the situation much more carefully and faithfully than their right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss). Surely it is hypocritical for this House, which indulges in controversy and enjoys it so much, to say that there should not be any controversy at the Tate, or that, if there is, it is a dangerous thing which reveals something menacing which ought to be stifled. For my part, I agree that the basic fact is that the trustees have not resigned. The director is still there.
If there are individual trustees or groups outside who are critical of the actions of the director, then let them be. It seems to me that there is no harm in that. So long as the Gallery is administered as it has been administered since the war, so long as it continues to put on magnificent exhibitions like the Cezanne exhibition, the Mexican art exhibition and even the exhibition which included the Unknown Political Prisoner, so long as it shows that degree of liveliness and enthusiasm which attracts thousands of young people to the gallery, there cannot be anything basically wrong. Perhaps it is because of these exciting events that there has been a row. This House, which so enjoys controversy itself. 2335 ought to be the last to criticise controversy in an institution which evidences so much enterprise and gains for us so much prestige abroad.
§ 2.5 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
It was not very easy to reconcile some of the arguments advanced by the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). He seemed at one stage to be advocating that the cellars should be emptied and as many pictures as possible put into circulation. Then he went on to draw a gloomy picture of the difficulties which would arise if some of the pictures were put into circulation or exhibited either at No. 10 Downing Street or in British embassies.
I have no doubt that the Bill will be improved in Committee. I have always held the view that pictures belonging to any of the national galleries should in no circumstances whatever have to be kept in cellars for an indefinite period. That is a complete denial of the whole meaning and purpose of national collections. It means that either the galleries holding the pictures should be extended or that, if that is not possible, the pictures should be put into circulation and the exhibition of them permitted in a number of other places.
To the extent that the Bill provides for this circulation and enables pictures to be shown in other places, it will commend itself to the House. It must have been a very difficult task for the Parliamentary draftsmen to distinguish between the respective roles of the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery. In Clause 2 it is stated that the National Gallery shall consist of pictures of "established merit or significance." That means that a picture may have merit but no significance or it may have significance and no merit. There are examples of both categories in the National Gallery.
However, when we come to the Tate Gallery the trustees will be much less inhibited. They will be under no legislative or statutory compulsion to have any regard to established merit or significance. All they will have to do is to maintain a collection of British pictures and a collection of modern pictures. The question of merit or significance does not arise. In those circumstances I have 2336 no doubt that the task of the trustees of the Tate Gallery will be very much easier than that of trustees of the National Gallery.
That differentiation of function can lead to disputes between the two bodies, and provision is made for the settlement of disputes and differences of opinion which may arise. No committee can be more troublesome and argumentative than a committee of artists or art experts, and it is as well that the Bill should provide for machinery to resolve disputes.
When we examine the Clause we find that the arbitration tribunal, if I may so describe it, will consist of two trustees of the Tate Gallery and two trustees of the National Gallery with their directors. There will thus be three representatives of the National Gallery and three representatives of the Tate Gallery. To that extent, any dispute will still be unresolved. The only way in which a decision is likely to be arrived at is by means of a chairman appointed by the Treasury after consultation with both bodies of trustees. He will, in effect, be the arbiter, and that will impose upon the Treasury a very heavy responsibility when a dispute arises.
The Bill has had such a widespread measure of commendation from both sides of the House that I do not feel justified in delaying any longer the decision to which I am sure the House will be glad to come.
§ 2.11 p.m.
§ Sir Walter Fletcher (Bury and Radcliffe)
For safety's sake, I ought to declare a personal interest as a practising artist, though I do not assess either my expectation of life or the value of my pictures as such that they are likely to be hung in any of the national collections. However, it is safer to make the declaration.
I have listened to most, though not all, of the debate, and I think that one conclusion must be arrived at. However ingenious the draftsman of the Bill is, he cannot really expect to produce portmanteau Clauses to cover the incidents which will undoubtedly arise during the course of the Measure's life. That is for the very good reason that art galleries and art directors and curators vary in quality. We have an instance in Scotland. In Glasgow there is a rather richer and wider collection of pictures 2337 than there is in Edinburgh, but the Edinburgh pictures have the fortune to be housed in a more attractive gallery. One cannot produce a Clause to deal with that sort of situation any more than the situation in respect of two or three provincial galleries already mentioned.
A very much larger number of provincial galleries than two or three are aching to show pictures which they hope to borrow from the national collection. In the small art gallery at Bury six months ago we produced a local loan collection of works by Sickert, Wilson-Steer and Epstein, which for richness could hardly be equalled. There is pulsating through the country in every possible way an increased interest in art of every sort; it is not confined to any one particular school. Surely the whole object of the Bill must be to meet that situation as far as is possible.
We can learn considerable lessons from what happens abroad. In Paris there are the Jeu de Paume and the Orangerie, two galleries which are thronged by the public, to such an extent that over the weekends one can hardly move in them. The Jeu de Paume houses part of the Louvre collection; the Caillebotte and Camondo Impressionist collections. which belong to the Louvre, are nevertheless housed outside, and loan collections are shown at the Orangerie.
That is something that we have to bear in mind. One of the troubles at the Tate Gallery is that there is no large annexe gallery where loan collections can be adequately housed and shown, and when they are housed in the Tate, it is very often at the expense of the magnificent collection which is the permanent collection of the gallery. If funds could be found' to build a big annexe for these loan collections, we might go quite a long way towards solving some of the more difficult problems.
In 1933 I was in Moscow. In the Museum of Western Art there is probably the richest collection of Impressionists and Post-Impressionists in the world. The Russians sometimes do things in a very clever and ingenious way. They took the two collections, and made the two owners curators in the museum which housed their collections. When I was in Moscow, I looked at the marvellous collection every day, and in the end 2338 the curator asked me to address the students on the pictures which were there, and I did so in French. There were, however, certain handicaps. We were not allowed to say that A was a greater painter than B, because one was bourgeoise and the other was not, which was slightly limiting in matters of taste. Even then, many years ago, one realised that there was the beginning of a greater interest in art of every sort. We managed to borrow some of those pictures for a loan collection which we showed in this country in 1935.
It is very important that we should not think only in terms—there has been a great deal of concentration upon this —of sending certain pictures overseas to embassies. I am all in favour of that in moderation, but let us first of all satisfy ourselves that the provincial galleries of this country, of which there are a great many, have the opportunity of seeing pictures. The transfer of the Cezanne collection from Edinburgh to London has in it proof of what I am saying. It will be found that, when it becomes increasingly known that loan collections can be obtained and can, if necessary, eventually be housed in some of the houses which the National Trust has taken over—that would be quite suitable for Sunday loan collections; the public could then easily see a few loan collections which might be housed in such places—we shall be satisfying the great new public demand, and that is surely the very first thing to do.
One has to be very careful about it. Although there is a time limit in respect of the date of pictures, it is not necessarily the date that determines the rate of deterioration. Not every artist has in mind all the time he is painting his picture what posterity will think of the canvas. He is usually thinking "Shall I be able to sell the picture to a dealer next week for 50 quid to keep the wolf from the door?" Therefore, artists are not always very careful about the material which they use. One has only to go to France to see how some of the finest Manets are already beginning to show very serious signs of deterioration. For that reason they cannot be brought over here. They are only 70 or 80 years old.
2339 Similarly, we can go to the Mauritshuis in The Hague, which is probably the finest and most agreeable gallery there is, and holds one of the most beautiful collections in the world. There we can see the appalling deterioration which has taken place in the Vermeers over some 15 years. We can see how necessary it is that very great caution should be taken in moving certain types of pictures by painters who are notorious for not having used the very best materials. Caution will certainly have to be used in this respect for overseas loans.
There are at least 30 galleries throughout the country which would be crowded with people if a good loan collection—perhaps three or four loan collections—could tour the country over a matter of two years. Lectures about them could be given. People have no idea of the great interest which there is in the small places. I opened in Bury last Saturday a collection of paintings by local talent; everybody is interested in it, and the exhibition is crowded. That can be duplicated all through the country. There are not only the practising artists, but those who wish to practice and to learn and to be really interested, and this Bill must be looked upon, not as a completely watertight instrument to cover every possible instance likely to come along, but as a springboard from which the new interests in art can take a leap forward.
This new interest is there to be seen if one goes to the Tate Gallery or any other public gallery, particularly over a week-end, and we must realise that we shall not be able to fulfil that need adequately until we have one if not two, special galleries for loan exhibitions of every sort from our own collections and abroad. Then, with all its difficulties, which may reveal themselves as we go along, and despite the aftermath of the unhappy controversy at the Tate Gallery, this Bill will be able to perform its real function—to allow the public to see what they want to see, which they were able to see in the past, in the public and other collections of works of art, and thus satisfy a very natural and very healthy desire for the highest form of self-education.
§ 2.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
I think it will be agreed in all quarters of the House that we have had a most interesting debate on what really is a very important matter and of the utmost interest to a very large number of people, not only in this country but in other parts of the world.
I congratulate the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on being in charge of such a Bill for his first effort at that Box. It is much better to have a Measure of this kind to put through than one which excites a good deal of opposition, not only on this side of the House, but sometimes on his own.
Of course, this Bill has had a fairly long passage through another place, where it was considerably altered and some substantial pruning took place. That makes our work upon it a good deal easier. Nevertheless, I have to warn the hon. Gentleman that, when we come to the Committee stage, we on this side of the House will feel it necessary to put down a number of Amendments.
As I see it at the moment, we shall not seek to amend the provisions of Clauses 1 and 2 which I think are universally accepted. As has been pointed out by almost every speaker in the debate, the position of the Tate Gallery has been anomalous for many years. The Vincent Massey Committee, which reported in 1945, recommended that the Tate Gallery should have an independent existence, and, although it has had a board of trustees of its own since about 1917, this has not yet been done. It is now time that its trustees were given statutory existence.
I agree with previous speakers who have complained that the First Schedule, which is linked with Clause 5 of the Bill, is not complete. I realise that provision is made to add other institutions, such as museums and galleries, to it. Nevertheless, it seems to me that it may be worth while, when we consider the matter in Committee, to add some other museums and galleries to the Schedule itself.
Certainly, I approve the suggestion that some gallery in Northern Ireland, perhaps one in Belfast, should be added, but whether it is possible under the terms of the Bill to add the Art Gallery in Dublin is another matter. We have to 2341 remember that Eire is now a Republic, and that that might make some difference. At any rate, we could consider the matter in Committee.
§ Mr. Beattie
I do not think any claim was made for the addition of Dublin. What we appeal for was the return of the Lane picture collection to the National Art Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I take that point, and I thought I was dealing with it.
We are not suggesting that we should open any new gallery in Dublin, but the suggestion in the Bill is that pictures from either the Tate or the National Galleries should be loaned, either temporarily or permanently, to other parts of this country and elsewhere, and it occured to me that the fact that Ireland is now a Republic might make a difference; but the point can perhaps be considered during the next stage of the Bill.
We are not here in this Bill dealing with some obscure gallery or museum. We are dealing with galleries which are known throughout the world. We were told this morning that over half a million people visit the Tate every year. I do not know how many go to the National Gallery, but I should imagine that the number, is equal, if not greater. I have no doubt that well over a million people visit the two galleries in the course of 12 months.
That large numbers attend is understandable so far as the National Gallery is concerned. It is in central London, served by many bus routes and near to underground stations, but that does not apply to the Tate, which is difficult to reach. I think that only one or two bus routes pass anywhere near it, and there is certainly no underground railway within a mile or more. The fact that people are willing to go out of their way and walk considerable distances to visit it is something upon which we may well congratulate ourselves.
In passing this Bill, therefore, we ought to see to it that we make it as good a Measure as we possibly can, and the plea that has been made this morning that the Government should do all they can to increase the wall space at the Tate Gallery by extending the buildings there as soon as is practicable, is something of which I hope the Financial Secretary 2342 has taken full note. Fortunately, there is room to expand.
I imagine that the ground facing Bulinga Street belongs to the Tate Gallery. It ought not to be difficult at no great distance in time for the buildings to be extended. I should like to ask the Financial Secretary if he can give us any idea how many pictures are in the cellars at the Tate and not on exhibition, and how many of them could be accommodated if we could extend the accommodation.
Quite recently, with other hon. Members of this House, I have been attending a conference in Vienna, where I think we were all astounded to see the strides the Viennese have made in renovating and rehabilitating their public buildings. There is no doubt that, though many of the amenities in that beautiful city had been damaged or destroyed, and, while the Viennese have been doing everything they possibly can to rehouse their people, they have not lost sight of the cultural side of life, represented by the State Opera House, and other community centres.
In so far as we can, we should see to it that our museums and art galleries do not lag behind even in the light of the very great need—and I fully admit it—to provide houses, factories and other buildings necessary for the economic life of the country.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) and my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) referred, very properly, to the differences that have arisen between the Director of the Tate Gallery and some of the trustees. I do not want to traverse what they have said or to say much more on this rather delicate matter, but I, like other Members of the House, have had letters about the difficulties that have arisen there, and I must say that the situation appears to many of us to be somewhat disquieting.
I believe that there have been five inquiries recently and two resignations from the trustees. That may mean much or little—I do not know; but I should like the Financial Secretary to give an assurance today if he will, that now that a new chapter of the Tate is being opened, something should be done, and 2343 done quickly, to try to heal the breach and to reassure the public mind in this matter.
I should like also to ask about the present position as to space at the National Gallery. How many pictures are stored because no room can be found on the walls? I know that the National Gallery is hemmed in by other buildings, and that owing to its situation it is impossible to extend the accommodation by building, but it should be possible to find other space within measurable distance which could be used as annexes to the National Gallery.
We all know that Lancaster House has been recently renovated. It seems strange that if it can be redecorated little or nothing has been possible on the rooms of the National Gallery now out of commission because of damage due to the war. I gather that at least seven or eight, perhaps, nine, rooms of the National Gallery are not being used simply because they need renovating and rehabilitating. What is preventing these rooms being done up and brought back into use?
It has often seemed to me quite wrong that the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall should be used for its present purpose. It is now used by the Royal United Service Institution for a permanent exhibition, good in itself, but which could quite easily be made part of a museum or exhibition somewhere else. This fine Hall, situated as it is in Whitehall, is used not to its fullest extent. It would make a fine picture gallery, and I ask the Financial Secretary whether further consideration has been given to attempting to get the Royal United Service Institution to vacate the building, so that it can be used for some other and, in our view, better purpose.
Can the Financial Secretary also, when he replies, give some authentic figures as to what funds are available for the purchase of pictures? We know that there are various bequests and other funds available, and these are extremely useful, but to what extent are the Government themselves assisting the nation to buy pictures and to add to the unique collections that we now have at the National Gallery and the Tate? Is an exact sum allocated every year? 2344 Most hon. Members remember that about a year or more ago there was a great drive for economy by the Government, who reduced the number of messengers, and so on, at museums, and in some places cut down the staff. I understand that things are a little easier now. I am delighted if that is so, but whether or not the Government have eased up on staff in museums and similar places, it is time that they found additional money to assist these two great galleries to acquire pictures as they come into the market. After all, we are building up a collection not simply for this age but, if the hydrogen bomb permits, for many ages to come. Great pictures rarely lose their value. If we can buy them at the proper time, we frequently get them much cheaper.
I hope that, in winding up the debate, the Financial Secretary will be able to answer some of the questions that have been put to him by my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House, and by some of the Members behind him. The Bill is important. It will be a long time, I imagine, before we get another like it. Therefore, while we are at it, we might as well make a good job of it. It will be the hon. Gentleman's first Bill, and I am sure that he shares with us the earnest desire that his first should be one well worthy of him, particularly in view of his interest in art and his family associations with it.
Therefore, although in Committee we shall have a number of Amendments to put down, some of which, I understand, will be acceptable also to hon. Members below the Gangway opposite—and because of that, we trust, they will be accepted by the Government — we welcome the Bill wholeheartedly, and support it on its Second Reading. I hope that at no distant date, with the improvements which we shall attempt to insert next week, it will have a speedy passage to the Statute Book.
§ 2.37 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Brooke
I appreciate very much the speech of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), and I should like to thank hon. and right hon. Members in all quarters of the House for the reception they have given to the Bill and for the spirit in which it has been debated.
§ Mr. Speaker
I must correct the hon. Gentleman and remind him that he ought to ask for leave to speak again.
§ Mr. Brooke
I apologise, Mr. Speaker, and I hope that I may have the leave of the House in replying to the debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
I should like particularly to thank the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) for the manner in which he opened the discussion of the Bill, because he set the tone for the whole debate and we have, in the main, concentrated on essentials throughout. My noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) referred to our tolerance and liberalism. I was conscious of a welcome element of conservatism in all quarters, because everybody wished to conserve these possessions and make sure that they were handed down to posterity.
It may be most helpful if, first, I explain a few points in the Bill to which reference has been made and then answer some of the questions which have been put to me. I was asked by the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) why there was no mention in Clause 2 of maintaining in the Tate Gallery a collection of sculpture. The reason is that Clause 2 defines the relative objects of the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery, and as there is no sculpture in the National Gallery it is not necessary to direct the attention of the trustees of the two bodies to the fact that sculpture should stay in the Tate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ton-bridge (Mr. G. Williams) questioned whether the committee that is to be set up to resolve disputes was properly composed, and the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North asked whether it was to be a standing committee or an ad hoc committee. The idea is that there should be an ad hoc committee if a dispute arises, but I sincerely hope that such a committee will never need to be set up. I suggest that it is wise to have the two bodies of trustees adequately represented on that committee, because I doubt whether it would work towards future harmony if one had a committee composed almost entirely of independent persons who had not the necessary background. I think that a chairman appointed by the 2346 Treasury, after consultation with both bodies of trustees, and therefore acceptable to them, would provide the necessary independent element.
On Clause 4, I was asked about the date of 1700. It was suggested, I think by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) when he interrupted another speaker, that it would not be possible to lend foreign works which had been executed earlier than that date. That, of course, is not so. It will be possible to lend such works, but it can only be done if the Treasury approves, and if an order is laid before Parliament. I think that those are wise safeguards, but there is no reason to believe that the Bill will, in effect, prevent any pre-1700 foreign picture from ever leaving the country.
I was asked by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) about the provisions for enabling students or people engaged in research to see pictures in official buildings. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is not intended that they should be the only people who will ever see the pictures. But it was felt in another place most desirable that there should be statutory protection for students and persons engaged in research, because a picture may have a special importance for them. I hope that it will he possible to make reasonable arrangements—and I stress the words "reasonable arrangements"—for pictures to be seen in public buildings at appropriate times by people who genuinely want to see them.
The noble Lord the hon. Member for Dorset, South asked about the sale powers in Clause 6. The suggestion was made that this was differentiating between the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery. The truth is that there have never been powers to sell pictures from the Tate Gallery as such. In fact, there have never been recognised by law any trustees of the Tate Gallery. The reason why only the National Gallery is mentioned there is because the Act of 1856 named the National Gallery trustees alone.
I want to dwell on the First Schedule and the list contained therein, because that has attracted a good deal of attention, especially from across the Irish Sea. May I first explain that this is not 2347 a list specially thought up for the occasion, and neither has it any sinister anti-Irish intent. The institutions listed in it are, in fact, the institutions which are at present represented on a body called the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries, and it seemed right that they should be the institutions named in this list. I would, however, draw the attention of the House to the final words of the First Schedule which will give power to the Treasury, by order, to include other institutions in the United Kingdom and to add to the Schedule.
The hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) expressed pleasure at seeing the Report of the Tate, and asked whether annual reports would be published. I can assure him that henceforth that will be so. The right hon. Member for Colne Valley asked me a certain complicated question about how many pictures were in store and how many were on view. As regards the Tate Gallery, the right hon. Gentleman will find that fully set out on page 83 of the Report. I regret that I cannot, without notice, give him the information in regard to the National Gallery, though I can help with the information for which he asked about the grants available for new purchases.
The truth is that the Tate Gallery received no grant in aid for purchases of works until 1946. From 1946 to 1952–53, there was an annual grant in aid of £2,000. That, I am glad to say, was raised in 1953–54 to £6,250, and has been further raised, despite the Chancellor's difficulties, to £7,500 in 1954–55. In respect of the National Gallery, the position is that in 1952–53 the amount was £7,000, in 1953–54, £8,750, and in the current year, 1954–55, £10,500, plus a special grant of £10,000.
I hope that the figures I have given will satisfy the House that, despite financial difficulties, we are moving in the right direction, and that the Treasury recognises the manner in which the House wishes the galleries to be supported.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
For the sake of the record, could the hon. Gentleman say what income is received from bequests such as the Knapping Bequest and others, or is that too much to ask him?
§ Mr. Brooke
I am afraid that I cannot answer that question without notice. I have done my best to help the right hon. Gentleman.
To come more generally to the debate, I was particularly affected by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central asking whether more could not be done to enable London schoolchildren to enjoy the galleries. Only once in my life have I met the director of the Tate Gallery, and that was in June or July of this year while I was still a back bench Member. He was giving away the prizes at a secondary school near Millbank, and I as a member of the London County Council was there to propose a vote of thanks to him. The one subject which, I remember, he and I discussed together was the practical possibility of bringing about a greater opportunity for visits from London schoolchildren to the Tate Gallery. So there, again, all our minds seem to have been working in the same direction.
Important questions have been asked about the space available for the hanging of pictures and the possibilities with regard to new buildings. Here we must recognise that we are discussing only two of the national institutions of the country, and that, in addition, there are local ones. It is a fact that discussions have proceeded about the possibilities of an extension to the Tate Gallery. Such an extension would cost a great deal of money, and it will have to take its place in the priority list together with other building work which the British Museum and many other museums and institutions would also like to go ahead with. The matter has not been forgotten. It is, as I say, a question of priority.
In the National Gallery 10 galleries are out of action. One of those was wholly destroyed in the war. Five of them are at this moment being air-conditioned and re-designed, with the intention that they will be reopened stage by stage over the next two years. A further three galleries are being restored, and it is hoped that later we may have them too.
A number of hon. Members asked whether more use could be made of Lancaster House. I am delighted to say that the answer is in the affirmative. Our plans are to transfer six pictures 2349 from the National Gallery to Lancaster House the moment this Bill is through, and thereafter to transfer a further 10 pictures which need some attention before they are moved.
I now come to the broad question of lending powers and lending practices. I think that we all supported the hon. Member for Bury and Ratcliffe (Sir W. Fletcher) when he pleaded the cause of provincial galleries. I hate to think of pictures in cellars. It is generally bad for the pictures, nor can they be enjoyed there. I feel quite sure, myself, that provided the trustees know where the pictures are, that they do not let any pictures out on indefinite loan, that circulation is maintained, and that they can satisfy themselves that the pictures are being properly cared for, it is desirable that pictures should be out on loan and seen rather than that they should be put away.
I very much appreciated the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe), who supported warmly the new possibilities which the Bill will create for lending foreign works abroad. He stressed what I regard as a very important matter—the desirability of residences like our embassies abroad being gracious British houses. We are no longer likely to find ambassadors with such private means as in years long gone by, but I feel sure that we can do good for Britain if the homes and houses which are occupied by the representatives of this nation overseas are furnished with pictures in a way of which any Englishman would be proud.
Suggestions were made that, instead of lending for these purposes, it would be desirable for the Ministry of Works to purchase pictures. I do not think that that suggestion will really stand analysis. The Ministry of Works has many tasks to perform, and we have had Ministers who are connoisseurs of pictures, but it strikes me that the wiser course is to put the money for buying pictures into the hands of the trustees of the galleries, rather than have what I might call competitive buying, and that the trustees should then have discretion to lend to buildings which the Ministry of Works has to furnish.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch 2350 made what, I am sure, was regarded in all parts of the House as an outstandingly thoughtful speech. He knows the world of art, and knows as well as any of us the earnest differences which exist at the present time, among people who care for these things, as to whether it is desirable that pictures should be concentrated and kept in galleries, or whether the galleries should be, in the best sense, lending libraries. He supported the lending library idea—as, indeed, I do—but he urged that we should put into the Bill a number of statutory restrictions on the lending powers of the trustees. He spoke of them as principles of guidance, but I think that it would be very difficult for them not to become statutory restrictions.
My first thoughts, after listening to the hon. Member, are that it would be wiser for us to trust the trustees in this, rather than to attempt to tie them up by words in an Act of Parliament, which, however appropriate they may be today, may become inappropriate as years go on—and well we know, especially in this field, how slow Parliament is to find time to amend the legislation. But I shall give very careful thought to all the suggestions which were made by him and by other hon. Members in this debate, to which I have had the pleasure and the education of listening all the way through.
I think that the House would not wish me to sit down without saying something about the rather sordid controversies that have afflicted the Tate Gallery. Suggestions have been made in the debate that the whole cause of these controversies can be pinpointed in one relationship. I would advise the House not to accept that view. It is all far more complicated than that. One might as well say that one has truly described "Hamlet by calling it" Ophelia's Love Affair."
The principle on which I must take my stand is that the House should entrust the administration and control of the galleries to well chosen trustees, and should then interfere as little as possible, except firstly, by debating the matter in a broad way when the House desires to do so, and secondly, by making it perfectly clear if the House loses confidence in the trustees. However, in the position we are now in, I must say, with all the emphasis at my command, that if we are to make a new start, if we are to ensure harmony, if we are to send this Bill, and 2351 the Tate Gallery, on its way with a fair wind, the less any of us—and this includes members of the Government like myself—seek to interfere with, or to pass comment on, the internal affairs of this or any other gallery the better it will be.
I have expressed my confidence in the trustees. I have been asked to make comments upon individuals in the employment of the galleries. I ask leave not to do that. It is not for me to complicate matters by expressing either praise or blame for those who are working in the galleries. What we should all like is that there should go out from this House to the trustees and to all concerned with the management and working of the galleries a message of real good will, conveying to all of them our support and expressing our desire that they shall be able to make the galleries more and more enjoyed by the public.
I was asked whether there was effective indirect control by the Treasury. I am not all sure that I want any control, direct or indirect. Obviously, there has to be contact, but I should like to see the trustees, so far as possible, running their own show within the terms laid down by Parliament and within the financial grants available. It was suggested to me that it would be better for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to appoint the chairman than for the trustees to do so, but surely what we desire is that the trustees shall work as a team.
§ Mr. Wyatt
The hon. Gentleman said that he did not want to make any comment on these affairs, but surely he must know that civil servants have been attacked who are unable to reply for themselves, and it is the custom of this House that the Minister responsible defends a civil servant when he is attacked unless he has lost confidence in that civil servant, when he says so. It is unreasonable to have a situation in which a civil servant is regularly attacked, and is not allowed to reply, and the Government do not do so either.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss
The Financial Secretary might reply at the same time to this point. He said that he did not want to make any comments about individuals. I sympathise with that point of view, but I should like to know 2352 whether he will answer the question which a number of my hon. Friends and I have put to him. which is really the key.
Is he now confident that harmony lies in the Tate Gallery amongst those who are to be responsible in the future for the administration of this Measure and for the running of the gallery? Can he give us any broad assurance that things are going to be better in the future, and that we shall not have the same sort of difficulties and troubles as we have had in the past? That is what we want.
§ Mr. Brooke
I do not resent those interruptions in the least. What I can say is that it is the intention of the trustees to promote and produce harmony in the Tate Gallery, and I believe that they can do it. I believe that they will be greatly assisted if everybody gives the Tate Gallery a respite from published controversial articles and letters. Whatever the merits or demerits of the case, that is absolutely essential because one cannot secure harmony in an atmosphere of weekly back-biting in the newspapers.
If I ask to be excused from expressing views on individuals, that is only because I am so anxious not to use any word which might aggravate difficulties. My full belief is that the trustees of the National Gallery and of the Tate Gallery are the right men for the job; and that if we leave it to them, and if the Press will leave it to them, these troubles of the past few years will become genuinely a thing of the past, and the Tate Gallery, in its internal affairs as well as in the external face that it shows to the public, will have great happiness and success.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Suppose that what the hon. Gentleman now says does not occur. Of course, we all share his hope in fact, it has been the burden of every speech today, but suppose it does not occur. He, as Treasury spokesman, is responsible for good feeling at the Tate. Will the Treasury itself do something, or will it mean that this trouble may eventually boil over into the Press again, say, in another 18 months' time? At least 10 senior officials have, I am told, left the Tate Gallery within the last 18 months. Just words will not cure that sort of thing. There is apparently something wrong there, and it seems to some of us that it is the hon. Gentleman's job, 2353 with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others at the Treasury, to try to smooth things out once and for all.
§ Mr. Brooke
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer takes full responsibility on himself in this matter, and I stand with him. But when the right hon. Gentleman says that 10 senior officials have left the Tate Gallery in the last 18 months, it just is not true.
§ Mr. Brooke
He was speaking in perfectly good faith, but that is just an illustration of the way in which statements made in the heat of controversy in the Press get into the minds of many people, including Members of Parliament, and convey an impression that things are far worse than they really are. I am asking for a period of silence, in which we can hope that the situation will improve, and which will give the trustees a chance to bring about—as I believe there is being brought about already—a far better and happier atmosphere within the Tate Gallery.
I quite realise that I am staking a bit of my political reputation on this point, and that what I say today may be quoted against me 18 months hence if things go wrong. Nevertheless, I believe it is right to do so. Looking down the list of trustees, I cannot see any way in which one could substantially improve it. Although we have read so much in the newspapers, we must bear in mind that only one trustee has resigned because of a strong feeling that mistakes had been made. All the others have remained at their posts.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss
The alarming point is that so many of them express support for the reasons for the resignation of that one trustee.
§ Mr. Brooke
One trustee resigned without consulting his colleagues before doing so. He has now written letters to the newspapers saying that he holds letters from other trustees expressing their views and their feelings in support of him in his resignation. I do not know whether he had any authority to disclose to the Press the contents of their private letters to him, and I do not think that any of us can judge these matters. I am only saying this to keep the balance. 2354 We must form our judgment not upon all the petty details which we cannot possibly examine in full, but upon our judgment whether what I might call the surviving trustees are men of sound judgment, public reputation, and standing in the artistic world. They look to me like that, and if I correctly judge the mood of the House, I carry most hon. Members with me in that opinion.
If we can achieve that we will have achieved a great success. Our debates, in which certain matters have been aired, may well he accepted as the closing of an unhappy chapter. The next chapter remains to be written. I trust that it will be written in gold and that in future the Tate Gallery and the National Gallery will rise to the great expectations that we all have and will be wholly worthy of the wonderful works of art which those who are concerned with those galleries are looking after.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hyde
Will my hon. Friend consider the point which I raised? I appreciate that there is nothing sinister in the way in which the First Schedule is drawn up and the fact that Northern Ireland galleries are omitted. The Standing Commission had no jurisdiction in Northern Ireland, because the galleries there came under the jurisdiction of the local Parliament. That is why we feel that the galleries in Belfast should he expressly included in the Schedule.
§ Mr. Beattie
Requests have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House for an expression from the hon. Member of the possibility of handing back the Lane Collection to the rightful owner. Can the hon. Member give us some satisfaction upon that reasonable request'?
§ Mr. Brooke
In answer to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Belfast. North (Lieut.-Colonel Hyde), I would say that I was not prejudging any Amendments he may seek to put down. I should like to see them on the Paper first. All I was explaining to the House was how this list came to be composed. As regards the Lane pictures, I can only say that the facts are known. They have been correctly stated by my hon. and gallant Friend to the House today about the codicil that was signed and not witnessed. The matter was examined by 2355 an all-party Committee 30 years ago in 1924, and it was decided at that time that it would not be right to pass an Act of Parliament to modify the terms of the will. That was the conclusion reached 30 years ago, and I could not advise the House to change that view.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. R. Allan.]
§ Committee upon Monday next.