HC Deb 31 May 1962 vol 660 cc1579-80
Q1. Captain Litchfield

asked the Prime Minister what representations he has received from the Prime Minister of New Zealand that the pictures on temporary loan to New Zealand from Admiralty House, which formed part of the Admiralty Collection of William Hodges' pictures of the Second Expedition to the South Seas under Captain Cook, should be permanently retained in New Zealand; and what response he intends to make to this request.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

I am in communication with the Prime Minister of New Zealand about the pictures to which my hon. Friend refers. Certain proposals are under consideration which I hope will be satisfactory to all those concerned.

Captain Litchfield

I appreciate the Prime Minister's difficulty while this matter is still under discussion with New Zealand, but may I ask him whether he appreciates my own difficulty in wishing to avoid embarrassing him and yet at the same time feeling that it really is time for a reply of substance to be given to this Question, which has now been on the Order Paper for more than eleven weeks and has been deferred six times? It is a Question in which many hon. Members on both sides of the House and persons outside are interested. May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he can at least give an assurance that he recognises that these pictures, which are national possessions of historic interest and value, should be returned to this country when he returns to 10, Downing Street, in accordance with the terms of the original loan?

The Prime Minister

I regret the delay, but I am awaiting a reply from the Prime Minister of New Zealand. I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend would think it discourteous of me if I made any statement before I had the reply.

Mr. David James

If I may declare an interest as a trustee of the National Maritime Museum, might I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that the pictures on loan to New Zealand are not all New Zealand pictures? Only three out of the ten subjects loaned are New Zealand pictures and the balance are at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Will he bear in mind that possibly the interests of New Zealand, too, would be better served if they would have copies of the New Zealand subjects rather than fragment a unique collection?

The Prime Minister

I would only say now that the temporary loan has, I think, been a great pleasure to New Zealand. The question of the future must, I think, await the reply I hope to receive from the Prime Minister of New Zealand.