HC Deb 05 March 1957 vol 566 cc153-4
1. Dr. Stross

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has noted the views of the Trustees of the National Gallery that a realistic purchasing policy would require an annual grant of £80,000.; and whether such a sum will now be made available.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Peter Thorneycroft)

I recently met a deputation from the Trustees of the National and Tate Galleries who explained their views. I have a good deal of sympathy with them; but, in view of the general financial position, I have not felt able to increase purchase grants in the coming year. I have, however, assured the Trustees that it will be open to them to apply for special grants in 1957–58, as hitherto.

Dr. Stross

Whilst thanking the Chancellor for that reply, as far as it goes, may I ask whether he does not agree that the present policy is wasting the taxpayers' money, and has he not received such representations? If so, would it not actually save money if the suggested policy were now implemented without waiting?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I think there is a case for some increase in the funds for this very proper national cause. I did not feel able to make it this year in all the circumstances, but I will certainly bear it in mind sympathetically for the future.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

Is the Chancellor aware that every year the same statement is made—that there is something special that year which makes it impossible to provide money for this desirable purpose?

Would not the right hon. Gentleman like to celebrate his elevation by making an exception and telling us that something can be done?

2. Dr. Stross

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when it is proposed to protect all the paintings in the National Gallery by means of air-conditioned galleries and store rooms.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

It is hoped to start the physical work on the West Wing of the Gallery in the early months of 1958. The air conditioning of the other rooms must await the completion of the present scheme.

Dr. Stross

Can the Chancellor then say whether we shall be able to house as many paintings in air-conditioned premises as we housed in the galleries themselves before the war?

Mr. Thorneycroft

There will certainly be a substantial increase in hanging space as a result of these operations.

3. Dr. Stross

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many acquisitions have been made by the National Gallery since 1939; of these, how many are on view to the public; and how many are in the reference section on the ground floor.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

One hundred and one; sixty-four, of which three are at Lancaster House; thirty-seven in the reference section.

Dr. Stross

Has the Chancellor been made aware of the damage to many of these paintings and, in particular, panels, that takes place in adverse weather conditions, and is it not a policy of complete bankruptcy to have precious heirlooms, the nation's heritage, on the ground floor, where they are exposed to such varying conditions? Will not the right hon. Gentleman consider a scheme by means of which all these works can be shown and properly protected?

Mr. Thorneycroft

That is why I think we should start on the work that I was discussing in the previous Answer.