HC Deb 22 February 1955 vol 537 cc1063-4
41. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware of the inadequacy of present arrangements for the preservation, recording, and control of export of literary manuscripts of national importance; and if he will consider setting up a committee to inquire into the problem and make recommendations.

Mr. R. A. Butler

The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art which I appointed in December, 1952, advises, under its terms of reference, on the principles which should govern the control of the export of works of art and antiques: this includes literary manuscripts. Under the circumstances, while not accepting the implications of the first part of the hon. Member's Question, I can only say that I will study any evidence which he puts before me.

Mr. Robinson

Is the Chancellor aware that it is not easy, even in the British Museum, to trace manuscripts which have been acquired at any time during the last 30 years, because the cataloguing stopped in 1922? Is he aware that it is almost impossible to trace manuscripts elsewhere and in private hands in this country; and, further, that the committee to which he referred is not, I understand, satisfied with the arrangement for the control of exports of literary manuscripts?

Mr. Butler

That is why I suggested that the hon. Member should put before me any evidence that he has. While I am aware of the case to which some publicity has been given, I was not aware of a general difficulty in the matter. Perhaps the hon. Member will help me.

Mr. E. Fletcher

Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer be publishing the recommendations which he has received from this reviewing committee?

Mr. Butler

I do not think that we can get much more publication than we have had in this matter, but I will examine what the hon. Gentleman has said.