HC Deb 09 December 1958 vol 597 cc197-8
35. Mr. Deedes

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the approaches that have been made to him, what steps he has taken to secure preservation for the nation of the Ilbert collection of watches.

Mr. Amory

The British Museum Trustees recently applied for special assistance for several purchases to which they attach importance, including the Ilbert watches. I have agreed to ask Parliament to approve a special grant of £50,000 towards these purchases. An issue from the Civil Contingencies Fund may be necessary and a Supplementary Estimate will be laid before the House in due course. It is for the trustees to decide how they will allocate the special grant between the purchases they wish to make.

Mr. Deedes

While acknowledging what my right hon. Friend has done in this matter, may I ask if he will bear in mind that something like £65,000 out of the total cost of £88,000 for this collection has been found through private sources, which is an exceptionally high total? Will he bear in mind the immense store which the industry, now making half of our watches and exporting about £2 million worth, sets by this collection? Will he make sure that we do not lose the collection if we can possibly avoid that?

Mr. Amory

The grant I have mentioned was a very substantial part of the grant for which I was asked. I should like to pay tribute to the generous help which is being provided to the trustees from private sources for this object. The actual allocation of the grant among the various bodies, as my hon. Friend agrees is a matter for the trustees.