HC Deb 06 November 1958 vol 594 cc1105-6
50. Dr. Stross

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he proposes to increase the purchasing grants of the National and Tate Galleries to a level that will bear some relationship to the rising cost of works of art and to the dignity and value of these institutions.

Mr. Simon

My right hon. Friend has this matter under consideration.

Dr. Stross

When the Minister considers it, will he bear in mind that it is embarrassing to realise that a great institution like the National Gallery would have to put aside its purchasing grant for about twenty years to buy one reasonably good Cezanne, that this is humiliating, and that the trustees cannot possibly carry out their obligations to the country?

Mr. Simon

The current prices of pictures is, of course, one of the matters that my right hon. Friend will take into account. I think I should point out that the annual purchase grants are by no means the sole source of public revenue for the galleries. For example, in the last three or four years about £500,000 of public money has been found for National Gallery acquisitions by way of special grant and out of the National Land Fund.

Sir F. Medlicott

Before any more money is spent on the buying of fresh pictures, will my hon. and learned Friend make sure that many of the pictures now stored in the basements, including most of the pictures in the Lane bequest, are exhibited and the spending of further public money deferred in the meantime?

Mr. Simon

I do not think any of the Lane pictures are not on view. I think I am right in saying that the trustees have plans to make the reserve collection more widely available.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman see that his right hon. Friend gives this matter not only consideration, but very urgent consideration? Although from time to time we vote special grants of money to the national collections, the fact that the galleries have to depend upon special Votes makes it impossible to plan expansion of the collections, and of course it is essential that the gaps should be filled, and filled on a planned basis.