§ Second Resolution read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
This Vote contains reference to the need to vote £350,000 in order that the cartoon by Leonardo da Vinci shall be retained in this country and to a second and much smaller expenditure on a further grant, a grant in aid, to the British Academy, and this increase of £35,000 is required to finance the continuation of salvage work on sites shortly to be submerged in Egypt and the Sudan.
We have just listened to many eloquent and moving speeches on the tremendously great and important problem of the need of the world to have more food. The loss of these treat works which are to be drowned in the Sudan is due to the fact that it is essential that the world shall have more food in this, one of the most fertile and ancient valleys the world has known and where, perhaps, our civilisation—certainly that of this part of the world—began.
When we consider this matter of the salvage of sites in Egypt I am compelled to say that many of us felt more than sorry that we had to face the drowning of the Temples of Abu Simbel. The hon. Baronet the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr), who is in his place as he always is when these subjects are being discussed, will remember that the Arts and Amenities Group's two deputations did their best to see whether help could be given to save them, but the total sum required was very large, some 70 million dollars, and they did not find it possible to persuade the Treasury or the Minister of Education to find what we thought was needed, namely, an extra £2 million to buy those remarkable pieces of apparatus, the jacks which would have lifted the whole of this cliff 170 ft. into the air and mounted it to safety.
That cannot now be helped, but when we are dealing with the other item, the item of the £350,000 we must vote for the Leonardo cartoon, I think it is worth while in a few words to remind the House what has really happened. In the short debate which 460 we shall have on this subject many questions will be asked—and I hope that most of them will be answered—because of the serious embarrassment caused to many people when it was thought that Britain might lose this remarkable work of art.
As we were aware, an approach had been made by the Royal Academy to the Governnrient—a private approach, I believe—asking them to buy the cartoon, but the Government refused. We then received a declaration from the Royal Academy to the effect that it proposed to sell the cartoon by public auction. I appreciate that had that been done there would have been a so-called safeguard concerning the activities of the Reviewing Committee for the Export of Works of Art. However, that safeguard could not have had any effect until after the cartoon had gone to auction—where it was expected to fetch at least £1 million from foreign buyers.
It was at that time—with not much time left before the possibility of our losing it—that the hon. Baronet the Member for Cambridge and I saw the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd). We did not ask him for money, just to be allowed time so that he and the Prime Minister would use their influence with the Royal Academy and allow the nation a period in which to buy the cartoon for Britain. We wanted to give the nation time to see if it thought highly enough of this work of art to purchase it.
I wish to pay tribute to the serious way in which our representations were received by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer and to the immediate action taken by him, for within a few days of our visit we knew that we had about five months in which to retain this work of art—not a great time in which to organise and mount a great campaign to enable the people of this country to buy it for themselves. The Chairman of the National Art Collection Fund took it upon himself to mount this campaign and nothing I can say can be praise high enough for the work he did, for he forced himself to go on, and though not a well man, refused to go into hospital until he had achieved his object.
I think it fair to say that all of us who were interested in this matter were rather disappointed to find that few large sums were forthcoming. Naturally, the National Art Collection Fund helped with a large sum, as did the National 461 Gallery itself and one of the trusts, but, by and large, it was surprising to see just how few were the large sums contributed. I am dealing with this aspect now because I hope that the Financial Secretary will address his remarks to the question of what will happen in future should a similar situation occur. Why did we not get wealthy private benefactors to come forward with assistance? Hundreds of thousands of people who paid to see the cartoon in the National Gallery and those who gave money and silver articles raised a considerable amount. It has been impossible to trace the donors because no receipts were given, but by the end of the period allowed about £350,000 had been raised, about half the sum required.
At that stage it would have been possible to have pleaded for a further extension of time, but by the time the £350,000 had been raised summer was upon us, along with the Long Recess, people were on holiday and it was at this stage, following representations made by Lord Crawford, that the Treasury did something for which I must commend them; they offered to give the rest of the money. It was in this way that the cartoon was saved. We are tonight being asked to give the Treasury permission to have that money.
The exercise of raising the necessary money was, I suppose, the greatest manifestation of public patronage of any kind I can remember. The nation was alerted and the public came forward to keep this remarkable work of art in Britain. It is said that the location of a work of art is not important so long as the public has open access to it. In other words, whether it be in Berlin, Paris, New York or London, so long as lots of people can see it, that is the important thing. I suppose that that is accurate in some ways, but that philosophy surely should not mean that we should be prepared to lose treasures of this type without making an attempt to retain them in this country.
In this case we are dealing with a success story, for the cartoon was retained here. But the Economic Secretary must be aware that there are about 100 irreplaceable great works of art which are not in the possession of any of our national galleries but are in private 462 hands. The directors of our great institutions know where they are, but I hope the Economic Secretary will say that he considers that we should now quietly proceed to negotiate to try to buy them. If so, must not the Government review the present machinery so that whenever a work of art of this type is offered for sale the sort of embarrassment we suffered in this case will not arise again?
Had this happened in the United States there would have been no such embarrassment because private benefactors would have come forward with the money. The Government would not have had to come to the rescue and a great campaign to raise money nationally would not have been needed. Benefaction in the United States is marked and profound, but there are reasons for that. The British Treasury has not allowed our wealthy citizens to have the sort of advantages their counterparts enjoy in the United States. Our fiscal policy does not permit such advantages, and I am wondering whether the Economic Secretary has thought about this matter recently.
As we know, the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries has been pleading for some years for a change in Government policy in relation to death duties and certain taxes when gifts of articles of this type or gifts of money are made to galleries and museums. I will not go into the details because we are well aware of them. We have discussed this topic on Finance Bills for some years, although we have not succeeded in persuading the Government of the need for a change in policy in this respect. I hope that the Economic Secretary will say that some thought has been given to this matter.
It is interesting to note that a grant is made to institutions and allows provincial galleries to purchase works of art more easily than they would otherwise be able to do. Is there any likelihood of a change in Government policy along these lines which would ensure, on an area basis at least, that conservation would be possible with the assistance of the Treasury?
The Economic Secretary knows, of course, that there has been some criticism of the Treasury for administering the arts in the way it does, whether it be great institutions like the British 463 Museum or the giving of these grants-in-aid. Certain views have been voiced. I am delighted that my colleague, the hon. Member for Cambridge, is in his place, because he and several of his colleagues have given a view recently on this which is inimical to the Treasury. They would like the Treasury to surrender its responsibilities in this matter.
I wholly disagree with that view, but I know that many of my right hon. and hon. Friends agree with the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues who wrote an interesting pamphlet called Government and the Arts, which, strangely enough and rightly enough, has a reproduction of the Leonardo cartoon upon it. Many other hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite agree with me that we should avoid a Ministry of Fine Arts like the plague.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The fact that a reproduction of the Leonardo cartoon is on the outside of the pamphlet will not enable us to discuss the whole matter of policy.
§ Dr. Stross
I am obliged to you, Mr. Speaker. You have been most kind in allowing me the freedom to go as far as I have.
The Economic Secretary is responsible for seeking this grant from us. If I disliked the hon. Gentleman, I suppose that it would be possible for me to accuse him of having forced us into this embarrassing situation and to ask him never to do so again. However, I must leave the matter where it is by saying that where we on these benches see the Government being generous to the arts they can look to us to support them wholeheartedly. For ourselves, we proclaim gladly that, in turn, we shall nurture and cherish all that is good in the arts and that, in particular, we want to encourage the living artist who lives among us today.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Sir Hamilton Kerr (Cambridge)
I am delighted that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) paid such a warm tribute to Lord Crawford and Balcarres. Both the hon. Gentleman and I saw a good deal of Lord Crawford during the period of the Leonardo appeal. Aided only by a 464 tiny staff, and working through 12 hours of the day, he bore almost single-handed the entire burden of the work. Seeing him at work, I was reminded of the pictures of St. Sebastian, as conceived by the old masters, pierced by a hundred arrows, but his face still lit by a seraphic smile.
The hon. Gentleman spoke of the difficulties with which the Government are faced from time to time over the policy of helping the arts. The Leonardo appeal illustrated very vividly the trend that has already become familiar, and will become more and more familiar as the years go by. It is obvious that the day of the private patron is over.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that most of the money provided for the cartoon came from the pennies, shillings and half-crowns of ordinary people. Wealthy men, perhaps largely owing to existing tax laws, made no great single contribution. We have to accept the fact, when faced with demands for the purchase of works like the Leonardo, that, whether we like it or not, the Government of the day are becoming more and more the Maecenas of the arts.
Realising the issues raised by the sale of the Leonardo and its purchase in this way, my hon. Friends and I—and I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) here, because he did the bulk of the work—came to the conclusion that the machinery for handling the Government's relations with the arts at present was not satisfactory.
We made a modest proposal that there should be some co-ordination and that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Building and Works should be the co-ordinating figure. But this little mouse of a proposal created as much uproar in certain artistic circles as a barging Brontosaurus. "'Barmy,' Sir William Emrys Williams snorted and roared with the ferocity of a bull in a Spanish arena when it first sees the red capes of the bull fighters." Even Lord Cottesloe, who couched his remarks in the more mild and muted tone suited to the gilded and gothic splendours of the House of Lords, followed his example.
They were afraid of things that were never intended. It was not intended, 465 even after the purchase of the Leonardo by the Government, to lay down standards of taste. We merely tried to question whether the administration was the best possible. But both these two gentlemen pictured from our proposal some flushed and harassed Minister standing at that Box in the House and facing cries of "Disgraceful" and "Resign" from both sides of the House because he had not supported equal proportions of representational and non-representational art. They were misguided.
I will quote a far more serious authority on the need for co-ordination, when the Government come to deal with situations such as the purchase of the Leonardo, namely, Lord Bridges, the former head of the Treasury. Lord Bridges at one time was the veritable "Dalai Lama" of Whitehall, a figure whom Ministers and civil servants fawned upon and whose greeting or slightest nod of approval threw them into the ecstatic convulsions of a courtier who caught the eye of Louis XIV on the terrace of the Palace of Versailles.
In the Romanes lecture on the arts at Oxford he said that although the Treasury was performing its functions well at the present time in dealing with grants to the arts, he was not quite certain what might happen during a period of astringency, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not very well advise other Departments to go about in rags when his own spoilt children were clothed in purple and fine linen. This great Whitehall figure suggested that perhaps there should be a shift of responsibility and more coordination.
The grant for the Leonardo, and the interest shown by the people in it, illustrate more and more that we are coming to an age of leisure. More and more, the Government are becoming the patrons of the arts. They will be responsible for grants to the galleries and will set the standard by which an increasingly leisured society will draw its inspiration. I do not say that at once a girl prodigy at Roedean will begin to write poems as beautiful as those of Sappho, or that in suburban gardens we shall see statues moulded by some local Epstein. But we are moving into a period where people will more and more find that real happiness in life exists within themselves.
466 That is why the Government should consider very carefully, following the purchase of the Leonardo, their whole policy towards the system of the purchase of works of art and see whether administrative actions would not be more valuable through co-ordination—possibly in the way suggested by my hon. Friends and myself.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)
As a Scottish Member who sits for an English seat, I should like to see more money provided for Scotland through the Arts Council. I am afraid that. I am unable to make my case in the exotic way of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr)—
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not know whether the hon. Member can make it at all and still be in order at the moment. I have some difficulty because I have to ask him to aim his observations at the only two matters contained in the Supplementary Estimate, the amount for the Leonardo and the submerged cities.
§ Mr. Mackie
In which case, I shall be in great difficulty about making my point. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) could get round that difficulty more easily because he is slightly more glib of tongue than I. Perhaps I can say that Scotland is as interested in the Leonardo picture as anywhere else and should therefore receive some assistance to help it satisfy its liking for the arts. If it were at all possible for the Under-Secretary to do something, we could probably see how we could divide the money and it might help a certain repertory theatre in which I have an interest. I think that is as far as I can go at short notice and still keep in order.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) and the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) on keeping within the rules of order, one rather longer than the other, on this rather difficult subject. I join with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) and with my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge in congratulating Lord Crawford on the tremendous amount of work he did to make the Leonardo cartoon appeal a success and to raise more than half of the 467 sum required. It is also correct that I should pay tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) who, in a summer which was busy in the financial and economic sense, took a tremendous interest and a tremendous lot of trouble to make sure that this difficult operation went successfully. In many ways he found it a recreation from his more onerous duties in the Treasury, and we are all in his debt for what he did to save this great picture.
I fully recognise that the Treasury cannot disclose its hand in a matter like this until very late in the day. If it were to guarantee the money, or in any way to cover it at the beginning, the private contributions would clearly dry up immediately, and only those who feel that the State should pay 100 per cent. of the cost of a picture such as this could ask for that. Personally, I envisage this as a combination, a partnership, of the State and private contributors to put up the money for pictures such as the Leonardo, and it would be quite wrong if the whole cost were to fall on the Treasury. The people must demonstrate their wish, with their contributions, to keep a picture of this sort in the country. Otherwise, as a nation we must admit that we cannot afford to hold it, and we must let it go.
I disagree with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central who suggested that we should tackle this problem by buying up the pictures which we know to remain in the country and which we do not want to leave it. That would be quite the wrong approach. If every good picture in the world were in a museum, I do not think that it would be an advantage. There must be some movement from some homes to museums and from some homes to other homes. We should work towards making the pictures available to the public, but not necessarily have them all in national ownership.
The whole of this operation was carried out under the ultimate threat of export control through the machinery of the Waverley Committee. The Treasury would not have had nearly so much influence in the matter if it had not been for the possible refusal of an export licence at the end. I have always believed that this machinery is fully justified by United States tax concessions and by the policies 468 of other countries, which have the effect of forcing up the value of works of art and distorting the market in works of art and making conditions not normal market conditions. The machinery works very well and I should like to go on record as saying that in this extremely difficult problem we have got somewhere near the right solution.
We must not do anything which would damage the market in works of art which we have here in London and which is probably the finest in the world. We would be very wrong if we were to extend the principle of export control. Indeed, I should like it to be used as an absolute minimum. It could be said, and I think with some force, that the limits of values under which things can be exported without the approval of the Export Committee should be raised. That would keep more cases from going before the Committee. It could also be argued that the period by which export can be delayed should be reduced. At present it is three months, which is a little long to keep a foreign purchaser waiting until he can take the picture away if permission is eventually granted. Two months might be a better period.
I am concerned with the whole question of Parliamentary control of grants to the arts in relation to this item of £350,000. I find it slightly strange that it should be my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary who is responsible and who is sitting on the Front Bench to answer the debate. I have the greatest respect and affection for him, but I am still surprised that he can spare the time from his many duties connected with the national economy and the state of our affairs and our taxation problems to answer the debate. I hope that he is continuing also to find the time to keep in close touch with our many museums and galleries and theatres and operas and all the many artistic activities for which he is responsible. I am sure that he has seen the Leonardo two or three times since it has gone into the National Gallery and that he is always popping in to make sure that it is being properly looked after. I congratulate him on one thing—he has not allowed it to be stolen, as in a previous case of this sort. I hope that he is not finding these duties too onerous.
469 We must have some sort of Parliamentary control if we are to vote sums of money, in this case £350,000 and in some cases nearer £8 million or £9 million annually for the arts as a whole. Some of us have been accused of trying somehow to bring the arts within the control of Ministers and of Parliament. Surely the function of this debate arises because expenditure on the arts is already within the control of Parliament and Ministers. I have never had any difficulty about asking a Question to do with the arts. If we are to provide money for the arts, it is right that we in the House of Commons should at least be able to probe and have some degree of public accountability. I do not think there is anything wrong with that and I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, finds it so difficult to accept the proposals that there should be some public accountability to the representatives of the taxpayer.
§ Mr. Speaker
I admire the hon. Member's ingenuity, but the advantage of the noble Lord was that he was not talking about a specific Supplementary Estimate. We must bear in mind the limits of the debate. Hon. Members cannot raise the whole matter of policy within the realm of a Supplementary Estimate simply by saying. "In relation to this particular purchase".
§ Mr. Ridley
I apologise, Mr. Speaker, if I have erred a little far in my desire to scrutinise this Supplementary Estimate for £350,000. You have been kind enough to allow me to make my point.
All I should like to say in conclusion is that the whole question of the Leonardo fund and the grant which we are now discussing and the ever-growing expenditure on the arts have raised in our minds the question of how we can best control it and how we can best administer it. If in flying this kite we have done no more than promote discussion, thought and interest, I am not in the least ashamed of it, and I hope that this will form a subject of later debates in the House of Commons.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie), I am not a Scotsman representing an English seat but a Welshman represent- 470 ing a Scottish seat. Bearing in mind your admonition, Mr. Speaker, I rise with considerable trepidation to approach this Supplementary Estimate in the interests of Scotland. That is what I shall try to do, and I shall try my best to keep in order, confident that I shall not be allowed to break the rules of the House to any great extent, or to stray too far from the path of virtue in that respect.
I am concerned about this contribution of £350,000 from the Treasury to the Leonardo appeal fund. Some of this money is Scottish taxpayers' money. The Leonardo cartoon is now in the National Gallery in London. As Scottish and Welsh taxpayers have paid towards the acquiring of this cartoon, it should occasionally go to the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh and to the gallery in Cardiff. We could have a rota.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central said that it was desirable that the State should acquire works of art and that it did not so much matter where they were as long as they were available for people to see and study them. The important thing with young people is that they should not merely see works of arts but should understand them. I cannot see our schoolchildren from Aberdeen coming down to the National Gallery in London to see this cartoon. If it were occasionally moved to Aberdeen or to Edinburgh, schoolchildren could make visits to it.
This is not very difficult, especially when it is remembered that the "Mona Lisa" has been moved from Paris to New York and that the Americans have not even bought it. As the sum of £350,000 represents taxes from all the taxpayers of the United Kingdom, the Leonardo cartoon should not be placed only in the National Gallery in London but should make a visit to the capital of Scotland and to the capital of Wales.
I have always thought that one of the best of the B.B.C's television programmes was "Sketch Club". I have followed it closely. I have grandchildren of my own and I have always thought that the presentation of art in this way to children is one of the finest things which can be done for the present generation of children. Appreciation of music and visual and other arts in all their forms 471 is to be encouraged among primary and elementary school children. We are living in a scientific society, a society of mechanical processes and mechanical forms, in a formalised civilisation, and to make living within that society a little more easy and a little more generous appreciation of art is most important. If we lose our artistic sense, as we have lost it in so many things, it will be bad for the people, bad for them as individuals and bad for society as a whole.
I see that we are to spend £95,000 on raising ancient monuments in Egypt. I do not know how far that sum will go in preserving these wonderful works of art which would otherwise be submerged as a result of the building of the Aswan Dam. This sum of money seems hopelessly inadequate. I do not know whether other funds are also available. I have seen these works only on television, but they seem to be huge and how £95,000 will be sufficient for the work of raising and preserving them I do not know, especially in view of the frightful cost of minor works in this country. I should like the Economic Secretary to explain what part this £95,000 can play as a contribution in salvaging these sites in Egypt and the Sudan. It seems to me to be a fiddling sum in the nature of what must be a tremendous task, and I should like to know from what other sources funds are being contributed to save these works.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Tbanet)
I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) "'[...]" This is one thing that I can certainly say and I hope that I may be able to remain within the terms of order: he spake indeed with "winged words".
The words he expressed were attractive and honey to the ears of many of us. I want to pursue what he has said. If I may divert for a moment to what the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) was saying: that if, in fact, the cartoon will travel well and in safety, which is always a difficult matter with a cartoon of this kind, then I share his view that she can become a travelling maiden. There was great concern about one journey to the United States and I think that what we must recognise is that 472 this is a matter for the art experts, to whom we must leave decisions of that kind. In the British Museum Bill, which is before the House, there is power to arrange for these travelling exhibitions. Indeed, many of us, on another opportunity, will be able to discuss the matter in the House.
I want to pursue from the converse side these two matters. I certainly think that I can happily say that I shall be in order on these matters because they arise directly from these two points. In the case of Abu Simbel, this country and other countries are being asked to vote money to save very valuable works of art on an international basis. In the case of the Leonardo, no one seemed to think that it was worth very much or anything at all until, suddenly, it was to be exported from this country. Then there was a tremendous wave of almost national fervour among a certain section of the community, and, as a result, there was a hurried whip-round for money with the regrettable feeling that, in any event, if the target was not reached the Government would probably be sufficiently forced into having to find the balance. I want to address myself to these two matters.
I entirely agree that the machinery is not satisfactory. I entirely agree that we are now entering an age of leisure and that our young people are at least beginning to become very conscious not only of the heritage of the past, but also avant garde in their consideration of what I would call the modern arts. The very strong art market in this country today shows there is also a very wide sphere of what I might call investment buyers. I do not share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge that there is no room for a large increase of patronage other than State patronage.
I think that a major duty of this House is to give far greater encouragement, each one and all of us, to local authority patronage within our own constituencies. I also believe that many of us on both sides of the House can give far greater encouragement to industrial patronage. I think that many local authorities should do likewise. It is not all Tory ones that do it. In Bermondsey, recently, the local authority introduced a very fine statue on the boundaries between Bermondsey and elsewhere by a 473 well-known sculptor as a contribution to sculpture.
There is no reason why those who are developing very fine new architectural buildings should not incorporate into those buildings both magnificent sculpture and internally very fine modern art. I do not think that they will be encouraged to do this unless industrial and local authority patrons think that they are going to get some credit for it—such is human nature.
If this had been approached in another way, it would not be the Government's job to find any of the money for the Leonardo cartoon. I do not criticise them for having done so in the event, but I think that if the approach were along different lines it ought not to be necessary for the central Exchequer to have to carry a grant of this kind.
How, then, do I suggest that this problem should be approached? I think that it should be of a more national nature, along the lines which the Americans have been successfully pursuing over many years. First, I think that it is necessary that the museums and the galleries should encourage their own patrons. At present, we have the National Arts Collection Fund, the Friends of the Tate, contemporary art societies, and similar bodies. The Friends of the Tate, for example, are dedicated to assisting in the purchase of pictures for that admirable gallery, but it seems to me that if the British Museum in its new clothing, the Victoria and Albert, and others, really set out to attract patrons who would become known as the patrons of those museums, those patrons would then seek to encourage the purchase of pictures and to assist in the improvement, design, and attraction of those museums.
As an illustration perhaps I might refer to one museum in America which I know very well. It is the one in Philadelphia. The board of patrons there consists of leading local accountants and bank managers, and the president is the head of one of the best-known firms of lawyers in the United States. As a result, everything is clone to encourage people, almost as a status symbol, to become patrons of the local museum, and it is a position of great honour to be the president of that museum. The board has the best advisers, and encourages leading industrial, commercial, and professional citizens 474 to become interested in the arts and to play an effective part in the running of that museum.
If the local authorities in this country want to improve their provincial museums, the best way to begin is to encourage the local mayors and other citizens to take an active part in the running of them and to take an effective interest in the arts. If this were done and encouraged at all levels, I believe that in this case the Royal Academy would have had a sufficient number of good patrons who would have been able to go to the big industrial patrons and get £700,000 without much difficulty, and it is the more likely that they would have succeeded in so doing if they knew that the Government were not going to help them, because there is nothing like the spur of private endeavour to produce results.
It is said that we deserve only what we are prepared to pay for, and there is a good deal in this. I think that I am in a minority in my view, but I believe that one day it will be the majority view. I take the view that those who enjoy the pleasures of the museums would do so all the more if they had to pay a small charge for their pleasure. I know that this is not universally accepted, but if, for example, a man goes to the Tate Gallery, he has to pay his bus fares there and back—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I dislike having to interrupt the hon. Member, but he knows my duties. He must relate his observations to these two grants.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
What I am seeking to argue is that if the public make no contribution to the pleasure of seeing these museums, and, therefore, the Leonardo, they are not entitled to ask the Government to pay by way of grant what they are not prepared to contribute. I say no more than that. I think that that makes my point, and if a person is prepared to pay his fare to go to Piccadilly to see the Leonardo, there is no reason why he should not pay a moderate entrance fee to the museum for that pleasure.
It would be easy to exclude students from this provision and I ask hon. Members to bear in mind the fact that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who discussed this matter with me and others 475 in this House, was definitely of the view that it would assist the Treasury considerably, when it was considering matters of this kind, if it knew that the public, as well as industrial and local authority patrons, were willing to make some small contributions to which there might then have to be added a benefice by the Government.
I ask the House and my hon. Friend to bear those observations in mind, because I do not think it right that members of the Treasury Bench should have to come to the Dispatch Box and say that they propose to make a further grant each time some major work of art is about to go out of the country. I hope that we may get a different outlook, and that we may be able to encourage a new type of patronage, particularly industrial patronage.
If the Chancellor at some suitable time is able to support the views I have expressed, and if those who want to assist in the golden age of leisure show by their material offers that they really want to assist the arts, we shall get a climate of opinion in the country which will make it easier to secure what at the moment only a minority feel strongly about, namely, the opportunity to enjoy the great pleasures which the arts can provide.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I profoundly disagree with the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). I hope we shall never see the day when a charge is made for entering our museums. The hon. Gentleman said that he was expressing a minority opinion. I hope that he will long live to be in a minority, and I hope that for a long time we shall not change the existing state of affairs in which entrance to our museums is as free as we can possibly make it.
I also disagree with what was said by the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). I think that it is appropriate that we should have the opportunity of discussing these grants in aid, and I do not think it is regrettable that the Economic Secretary should come to the House to justify and explain this kind of expenditure.
§ Mr. Ridley
I think that the hon. Gentleman has got me wrong. I do not 476 think that no Minister should come down. I question whether my hon. Friend is the right one.
§ Mr. Fletcher
That is the point on which I disagree with the hon. Member. I think that the Economic Secretary is the right Minister. He is a good Minister, and from experience I can testify that he is very sympathetic on this subject. I therefore think that he is the ideal Minister to be made responsible for explaining the grants which the Treasury wishes the House to endorse, and in a moment I shall put one or two questions to the hon. Gentleman which I think will explain what I have in mind.
I wholeheartedly support these grants. I disagree with the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet. I think that the Government are right to recommend the House to make this contribution of £350,000 for the Leonardo cartoon and also to make a grant for salvage work on sites in Egypt.
I express the hope—and I hope that the Minister will confirm this—that in making this grant we are not acting in an exclusive spirit. It would be unfortunate if we fell into a situation in which we thought that only a certain amount of money was to be spent each year in grants for the preservation of works of art. No one can foretell precisely two years ahead, one year ahead or even three months ahead what demands are likely to arise upon the Treasury, as matters of urgency, for the preservation of works of art, whether they be works that we wish to keep in this country or overseas monuments which we seek to preserve, as in the case of the temples in Egypt, which are of world interest. It is equally important that we should make provision for being able to bring to this country from abroad works which are of special interest to this country.
My object in speaking in this debate is to invite the Minister to agree that the Treasury will always be sympathetic in inviting the House to vote sums of this kind whenever, in the opinion of the Treasury, the preservation, conservation or the bringing to this country of some work of outstanding importance is involved. In support of that I give two illustrations. I would not have minded if the grant had been higher. I have been urging the Minister to make a grant of 477 about £170,000 for the purchase by the Trustees of the British Museum of a unique work of art—a famous ivory cross the whereabouts of which had been unknown for centuries, and which only recently came to light in Switzerland. It is of outstanding interest to students—
§ Mr. Speaker
I have the impression that the matter of the ivory cross would necessitate a further and different Supplementary Estimate. I cannot get away from that difficulty.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I entirely agree, Mr. Speaker. But I submit that I can relate it to this Vote by asking the House to register the view that in agreeing to this Supplementary Estimate we are not thereby excluding the possibility of the Treasury's asking for similar grants—either now or at a later stage—in respect of opportunities to purchase articles of equally great national interest. In this connection, an occasion arises from time to time when some work of art is available for purchase. It may not be in this country, as in the case of the famous Codex Sinaiticus. The question may arise whether this country should acquire a certain work of art, or whether it should go to the United States or some other country. I hope that the Minister can assure us that the fact that we are being asked to agree to this appropriation of £355,000 does not exclude a willingness on the part of the Treasury to invite the House to make similar grants if and when opportunities arise for the acquisition of works of national interest or national importance to this country, whether or not they had their origin here.
The question of the salvage work to be carried out in Egypt raises a matter of principle. It does not seem possible for us adequately to discuss the appropriateness of agreeing to this grant without anything being said about the policy involved. Obviously it is for the Treasury to recommend the spending of money in retaining in this country, or bringing to this country, outstanding works of art such as the Leonardo cartoon, but I hope that the test that we apply will not depend on the question whether the work of art is in this country at the moment. That would unduly limit the scope of the grant.
As I conceive it, the Treasury has a duty from time to time to consider whether it should acquire from overseas 478 works of art, like the Codex Sinaiticus or the ivory cross—which the Minister knows about and which now, unfortunately, has gone to New York, although the Minister was prepared to recommend that we should purchase it. I may be expressing a view different from that of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), whose speech I did not hear, but if there is to be a choice between preserving works of art that are in this country, or which, for various reasons, ought to be brought here, and preserving works of art in, say, Egypt, I think that we should choose to preserve the former.
I have no prejudice against Egypt. The salvage work that has been done by our art experts in the last year or two in connection with various monuments on the Nile is of great importance, but in this context I ask myself what the present position is, for example, with regard to the proposal of the Egyptian Government for the preservation of the two great temples at Abu Simbel. As I understand it, at the U.N.E.S.C.O. Conference, the appropriate committee of which met in November last, certain recommendations were made at the behest of the Egyptian Government to a number of States, or contributory nations to U.N.E.S.C.O., in connection with the raising of a large sum of money—it was either 70 million dollars or 80 million dollars—to finance a scheme put forward by Italian engineers to lift these monuments bodily from their present situation on the banks of the Nile to a position in which they would be above the new high level of the waters of the Nile and still visible for visitors.
I have always entertained very grave doubts both about the technical possibilities of carrying out the project to jack these monuments up the cliff and also—assuming that the project is technically feasible—about the value of reciting the monuments in an artificial location. I am not sure whether they would then be of the same aesthetic value to people who have the good fortune to visit Egypt to see these monuments. As I understand the position, the grant does not include anything in respect of the Abu Simbel temples. If that is so, the question arises whether this is the final decision of the Government or whether it is an interim decision. All 479 the member States of U.N.E.S.C.O. have to decide whether they propose to make a contribution. Some have already done so. India and Pakistan have decided to contribute and one or two European nations have agreed to do so. The United States has yet to reach a decision. We may find ourselves in a position of having to face the odium of being the only nation which does not propose to contribute, and as a result the future of the temples may be prejudiced, or we may be shamed into falling into line.
The Government may be taking the line of least resistance and saying that in the circumstances we are not prepared to contribute to the cost of preserving the Abu Simbel temples. If that is so, it will probably seal the fate of these temples, because if we, as a matter of policy, decide not to contribute, it would seem to be unlikely that the United States or the Soviet Union, or the other major potential contributors, will take any further interest. That may be the policy of the Government and if it is I shall not be unenthusiastic about it. The Government may adopt that policy and prefer to spend such money as is at present available on works of a more national interest,—such as the Leonardo cartoon or the ivory cross to which I have referred, and which is now in America—than on preserving some Egyptian monuments which many people in this country may not see.
I think that we are entitled to hear a declaration of policy from the Government. The Abu Simbel temples are not unique. Egypt is rich in archeaological treasures and I shall not quarrel with the Government if they adopt that policy; subject to a provision that the money which will be saved for the Treasury may be available in future to be used to preserve other works of art which will, no doubt, call for preservation in the future. I hope that such action on the part of the Government will enable those hon. Members who are interested in these maters to urge more successfully on the Government the desirability of spending money to preserve, conserve or acquire other objects in the future.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
I wish to support the expenditure proposed on these matters under discussion 480 and to announce my agreement with hon. Members who have argued that the machinery used to take these decisions requires examination. I support the decision that was taken by the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer in respect of the Leonardo cartoon. But decisions in matters of this kind depend on the personality of the Chancellor of the day. I do not know the attitude of my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary or of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It seems to me regrettable that in matters of this kind, about which I feel deeply, the decision should depend on the view of the Minister of the day.
This is not a matter of party politics. But the all-party deputations which have waited upon Chancellors in the past have been told that there is speculation about how the country would react to any decision involving the expenditure of public money on works of art. I think it time that the political party which I support did some modern thinking. I am tired of the kind of thinking which is not in tune with the feelings of the country at the present time.
There is not the slightest doubt that the country, particularly the youth of the country, is becoming tremendously interested in the arts. That is all to the good. Except in the decisions about the Leonardo and the salvage work being done in Egypt, however, I have not seen any absolutely modern policy on the part of the Government of the day. I am very glad that the Leonardo cartoon was finally acquired for this country. Probably many people will be horrified when I say this, but when the appeal was made no one actually explained what the Leonardo cartoon was.
A great many people have a desire for the preservation of works of art. Many take great pride and pleasure in local museums and art galleries as well as in the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery, which now houses the cartoon. Yet a large number of people, when they saw the way in which this matter was presented—and the Government did not enter into it until the public appeal had been launched—did not know what a cartoon was. They were used to cartoons in Punch and did not know whether we were spending public money on something which was worth while or not. That aspect of the situation, the gathering together of the great forces in this country 481 today in support of a realistic and up to date policy for the preservation of things which are great and for purchasing things which are great, is very important indeed.
In spite of what the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) said, I add my word of support to my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). If we are to ask the general public, through the Treasury, to spend money on works of art and a large number of people are not yet convinced of the desirability of purchasing works of art, those people would be very much happier if we charged an entrance fee to some of our great galleries. I hope that, as my hon. Friend said, a more modern policy will be followed in that direction.
Local art galleries may make purchases and promote appeals to stimulate small local authority to help to develop an interest in the arts in their own areas and to look after their own museums. The objection is that, exactly as in the case of the Chancellor and taxpayers, local councillors are afraid of ratepayers. If the ratepayers could have the satisfaction of knowing that those who want this done will contribute to the finances by paying for entry to museums, that would help a great surge forward in interest in local galleries and museums.
I hope this matter will be looked at in a more realistic way than that of "hit or miss". Someone announces the sale of a work of art such as the Leonardo cartoon and then everybody gets excited. If those concerned had done their job in relation to the Royal Academy years before—had found how it was getting on with its expenditure and the development of its art school—we would not have had this question suddenly thrown at us. We suddenly find the possibility of the sale of the Leonardo and then everyone gets excited.
§ Mr. Ridley
Is my hon. Friend suggesting that the Royal Academy should have accepted public funds for its art school? It has consistently refused to do so.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I would not comment on that because I do not know enough about the thinking of the Royal Academy. The Royal Academy would not need to accept public funds or to take a decision on the matter, but, in the ordinary course of national life and life in London, I presume that even the 482 Chancellor of the Exchequer knew that difficulty was arising in regard to the maintenance of the Royal Academy art school. We should have been made aware of that. Perhaps the Chancellor did not know about the Leonardo cartoon. How can I know whether he did or not? Those of us who mind about these things would like to know that we shall not be faced with an agonising decision and have to wonder right to the last moment whether or not we shall be able to persuade Her Majesty's Government to find the money.
I have a great deal of sympathy with what the hon. Member for Islington, East said about the ivory cross and I have a great interest in the preservation of the Abu Simbel temples on the Nile. There is not only the particular question of preservation of those temples, but also the question of how they fit in to world history. We go from the preservation of those temples to the history which is written of the great days in Egypt and the great works of art there which many people have enjoyed and wanted to go to see. We get from the preservation of the temples to literature and a whole variety of things which interest the world as a whole.
I have no idea what the present Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks about works of art. Probably, as he is a modern man and a young Chancellor, he is very go-ahead. I hope he will be. It is very limiting to be able to discuss only these two Estimates. I should like to say a great deal more, but I do not want to get out of order. I hope that in future we shall be told by the Treasury what its attitude is towards all these great matters. I hope that the present Chancellor and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury—I hope I have got his title right, but it is difficult to remember with all these translations from one office to another—will remember that now, after years of work, we see developing in this country a tremendous interest in art, music, archælogy and the whole wide field of arts of all kinds.
I hope that the Treasury will not sit back and wait for all-party deputations to try to persuade the Chancellor that he will not get cracked on the head if he decides to spend some public money. I have great pleasure in sup- 483 porting these Estimates, I hope that we shall hear from my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary what the modern policy of a modern Chancellor will be towards these questions.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), the hon. Baronet the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) and the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) all mentioned in the course of their speeches the pointer that this Estimate gives to us as to the future of the proper patronage of the arts.
Only one of those hon. Members, however, made any constructive suggestion for an alternative. He was the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, who said that we ought to encourage industrialists and local authorities to become patrons of the arts. This morning I received through the post a Bill promoted by the hon. Member to give four more days' racing on the greyhound tracks. I do not know whether he regards them as industrialists. I gather that the proprietors may be even philanthropists who are anxious to provide for the adequate exercise of greyhounds.
I support his Bill, and I would do so with the more fervour if I had an indication from the greyhound track proprietors that in the event of their getting this extra opportunity for profit some of the money would go to the patronage of the fine arts. I hope that thought will be passed on by the hon. Gentleman to his friends, no matter what they may describe themselves as or what he may think they are.
I welcome these two grants, and I particularly welcome the way in which they have been received by the House. I should, however, like to sound a warning. The price of all these articles is now fixed by the amount that a wealthy American will be prepared to pay for them, and the more the efforts of this kind the higher the price will be, because these gentlemen across the Atlantic are determined to get the articles. If one of them had thought it possible to get the Leonardo for the equivalent of £330,000, such a sum would not have stopped the man who had that particular kind of interest.
484 Very often, now, when the trustees of these bodies are considering what price they should pay for a certain work of art—particularly if they have to ask the Treasury whether they can get a supplement to the annual Vote—they have to ask themselves what will be the highest bid from America. Personally, I do not want to see money sent from America merely to preserve these great works of art in private collections there, but I welcome the fact that the Treasury has responded to the magnificent lead given by the National Art Collections Fund and by the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres in starting a fund to try to preserve this particular work of art in this country.
I am a little surprised at the line taken by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence). I heard the same argument the other night—Scotland contributes so much to taxation. I have not yet heard of any Scotsman who pays any tax other than that demanded from him by this House, which he cannot escape paying. If they said, "In order that such-and-such a thing shall be preserved, we will agree to a special tax being levied on Scotland" I could understand it.
I regard these as national collections. If they can travel round, so much the better, but let us face the fact that a great many of these precious things are so fragile, need such arrangements with regard to air conditioning, and so on, that all of them cannot be sent round the country. Nevertheless, they should be made as available as possible in places where they can be exhibited without danger to their structure or their continued existence.
I welcome the fact that the Government have had the courage to make these grants. I hope that they will note what I have said about the possibility of getting into competition with American millionaires who want to reconcile their consciences over the way in which they have amassed their money with the way in which they use it for the public benefit, and so are prepared to make great sacrifices for their future in the next world and their reputation in some American pork butchery place in the present world.
Apart from anything else, I think that the Government have here recognised the truth of what this debate started 485 on—the difficulty there will be in future of getting big private contributions for the preservation for these works of art. I am quite certain that in future the Government will from time to time be faced with the problem of having to meet sudden demands that arise through the possible loss abroad of one or other of similar works of art.
I hope that the Government, no matter which party may be in power, will not fail in their duty to the cultural life of the country when such a crisis confronts them.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Edward du Cann)
First I want to say how much the Government welcome this debate, and how grateful we are for the contributions that have been made by so many hon. Members. I am sure that we particularly appreciate the most gracious things that have been said, and especially those most deservedly said about what was done by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) during his period as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Member for Stoke on Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) particularly referred to him.
I very much agree with my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), who said that our mutual hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr)—whom I know has to be out of the Chamber for a moment—spoke with winged words. But I have a point of difference with my hon. Friend. He criticised slightly the versifiers of Roedean, suggesting that they were not up to the standard of Sappho. Having spent a fortnight being educated at Roedean, and regarding myself almost as an old boy of the school—I hasten to explain that it was taken over by the Navy during the war, which explains my presence there—I regard this as a fearsome slur on an honourable institution, and hope to discuss the question with him in due course.
We are grateful for the support that these two grants have received, particularly for the support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). Perhaps I do not need to take up time in justifying these sums but, I shall, instead, try to answer some of 486 the questions and points that have been raised. If I cannot answer them all it is because I must keep within the rules of order. Perhaps we can look forward to a fuller debate, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) said, on another occasion—and we shall look forward to that—
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
The Economic Secretary spoke about keeping within the rules of order—no one else has bothered.
§ Mr. du Cann
I am not too sure that two swallows make a summer.
This debate seems to me to give a flat contradiction to someone who said the other day, "The people who govern us"—he meant Parliament as a whole—"are not really interested in art. Any obeisance to art is a gesture." I am sure that that is very far from being true and, in particular, I would assure my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth that the present Treasury has a warm sympathy for the arts, as I hope to indicate later.
I was particularly asked about the Leonardo going on tour. The right hon. Member for South Shields pointed out the difficulties in that—the fragility of the cartoon, and so on. Even when the "Mona Lisa" toured it did not do so without very great controversy. None the less, I am sure that there are great advantages in touring, and one of the things we are doing in this House at the moment in passing through all its stages the British Museum Bill is possibly to foresee the development of loans between our various national and local museums and galleries. I believe that to be a wholly worthwhile and important development.
Much has been said by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) and by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet about local expenditure. The House will have observed the publication of the recent Report of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries resulting from the Commission's survey of about 875 provincial museums. On behalf of the House as a whole, and certainly on behalf of the Government, I want to say how grateful we are to Lord Rosse and his colleagues for their work. The Government intend to consult the interests concerned about this matter, bearing in mind the principle, which I believe to be important, 487 and to have been very much to have been in Lord Amory's mind when this inquiry was established, that the upkeep of local museums and galleries in terms of normal expenditure is, and should remain, the responsibility of local bodies.
The truth is that local authorities have a glorious opportunity to do something really worth while for the arts. I know that this has been discussed quite recently, and it is right to point out that many local authorities live up to their responsibilities and take these opportunities. I hope very much that more of them will do so.
§ Major Sir Frank Markham (Buckingham)
I understood that we were not allowed, on this Vote, to discuss the Report of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries. The Economic Secretary has raised the matter now. Does that mean that the debate will become open to further debate on the Report which has just been published?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)
I think that the Economic Secretary was making only a passing reference and that is permissible.
§ Sir F. Markham
If that be a passing reference, I hope that the Economic Secretary will do his utmost to see that the House has a fair chance of discussing that Report in the not too distant future.
§ Mr. du Cann
I will certainly bring that to the attention of the Leader of the House. It is a valuable point to which I am sure my right hon. Friend will give due weight and consideration. I refer to it in passing because the subject of lending to local museums and exhibitions have been mentioned. The matter is much more fully covered in column 36 of Written Answers in today's HANSARD and I will not pursue the subject any more.
The question of admission charges was raised. There are two schools of thought on this subject. It would be appropriate for me simply to say that the Government have an open mind, and I think that the Government should preserve an open mind until such time as there is clear opinion one way or another. There is much to be said in favour and equally a great deal to be said against.
§ Dame Irene Ward
Surely it is the Government's job to lead. No one will ever consider waiting until public opinion is for or against in this matter. It is a lead that is necessary.
§ Mr. du Cann
I am all for leading and I certainly would be very ready, if my hon. Friend would be willing to come with me, to lead her anywhere.
On the other hand, I think that it would be quite wrong for the Government to force any local or national museum or gallery into a policy which is actively resented. I do not think that that is a Government responsibility. Broadly speaking, it should be up to those individual institutions to make up their own minds on the point.
I turn to the basic matters, Vote D and Vote P, the British Academy grant in aid and the contribution to the Leonardo Appeal Fund. The grant in aid to the British Academy has by agreement with the Academy been fixed in recent years on a triennial basis. I make the point en passant that we are endeavouring to fix a number of grants on a forward-look basis for reasons which I shall explain in a moment. I believe this to be an important development in policy.
This provision which is agreed during the triennium is being augmented only in exceptional circumstances. In 196263, the level of the basic grant was raised from £68,000 to £90,000 a year, a substantial increase. Within this the British Academy makes grants to a number of bodies such as the British Schools in Rome and Athens and the Council for British Archaeology and the Egypt Exploration Society. In 1960–61 and 1961–62, special grants totalling £20,000 were approved to enable the British Academy to increase its subvention to the Egypt Exploration Society so that the latter might undertake important archaeological work on sites in Egypt and the Sudan which were threatened with being permanently submerged beneath the Nile when the High Aswan Dam was completed.
This work has proved successful beyond all expectation. When the opportunity arose to continue it for a further three years the Government agreed to make a special grant not exceeding £25,000 for this purpose, the first £5,000 489 to be provided in the current year. I was able to announce this in the House on 5th December. In answer to the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East, this work has nothing to do with the raising of the temples and monuments at Abu Simbel, but I was asked particularly by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) what our policy was is relation to that matter. The hon. Member posed a number of hypothetical questions which I agree are extremely important.
This matter has been discussed in the House on other occasions, and in particular my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education has made it plain that there is no question at the moment of joining, so to speak, in the appeal made by U.N.E.S.C.O. In this, as the House knows, we are by no means alone and I certainly could not give in this debate any indication or undertaking that money would be available for this purpose. This is an entirely separate matter.
I turn to the detail of the Leonardo appeal I was entirely delighted with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and other hon. Members, and particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), who has explained to me that he cannot be here during the remainder of the debate. I was delighted that they paid a warm tribute to Lord Crawford and Balcarres. The work that he did was simply splendid. It was a great public duty which he undertook cheerfully and willingly in difficult personal circumstances. I know how most grateful everybody is to him for that.
This figure of £350,000—and I hope that this illustrates the point of sympathy to my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth—is certainly the largest special grant ever, just as the £800,000 is, we believe, the highest price yet paid in this country for a single work of art. As hon. Members have said, the Leonardo appeal was unprecedentedly successful, given the short time in which it had to be organised and carried through. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge said that the age of the private patron is over. Perhaps there is truth in that, although my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet does not agree and goes further in saying that it should be far from being true. The amount of interest aroused and the 490 thought of people contributing their sixpences, shillings and half-crowns are, to my mind, extremely romantic and very important.
Out of this, however, the important question arises whether thought should be given to the question of works of art of major importance held by public and semi-public bodies and what the position with regard to them should be in future. It has been decided that the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, specially augmented, should be invited to consider the position with regard to the sale of works of art and antiques of national importance and to advise what changes if any might be desirable in the principles and procedures governing the export of such objects. This inquiry is now in train. It will take time. It is not an easy matter, but I am sure that it is right to have the inquiry. While I have the opportunity, I should like to pay a warm tribute to Lord Cottesloe, the Chairman of the Reviewing Committee, another devoted public servant of the arts.
I have been asked especially about the export of works of art. As the House will know, present arrangements stem from the recommendations of the Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Waverley. I will not spend time discussing the criteria, but in the ten years of its existence the Reviewing Committee has had 59 cases referred to it and in 44 cases it recommended that an export licence should be withheld. The number of cases coming before the Committee does not necessarily indicate the effectiveness of the control. I believe it to be very effective indeed, in the sense that it is designed to safeguard as far as possible all the various interests concerned in the export of works of art of national importance.
In its ninth Report, published last October, the Reviewing Committee made certain recommendations for improving the system. These recommendations are under consideration in the Treasury, and we shall consider them most carefully. They also present certain substantial difficulties but we shall feel it right to pay very strict attention indeed to what has been suggested.
I now turn to the question of ministerial responsibility for the arts. My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury described me as a strange animal 491 to find here. I was a little disappointed in that. On the other hand, the hon. Member for Islington, East, with the courtesy that is so typical of him—we have done a number of things together, and I look forward to doing so in the future—said that I was an ideal Minister. My word! That, indeed, is high praise. It is the first time that I have ever been called ideal by anybody, even by my wife, and I am deeply grateful.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tyne-mouth expressed, I think, a feeling which I believe hon. Members always share in relation to individual Ministers, namely, how to bring matters to their attention. If she has a good case and presents it in her usual inimitable, clear and determined style I am sure she will always be received with sympathy, whoever the Treasury Ministers might be.
There is a serious point here, and that is whether or not it is appropriate for Treasury Ministers to look after the arts or whether we should have a brand-new Ministry. Opinions vary about this, as we have seen this evening. Some of my hon. Friends, in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, think it right that we should have a new Ministry. I think the important point is that the Government should keep an open mind on the subject until opinion becomes clear one way or the other. But in spite of what my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury said about Lord Cottesloe's remarks in another place, it seems to us that those concerned with the management of the arts value very highly their connection with the Treasury. This seems to be clear beyond a peradventure.
I am not at all sure that it would be right to say in general that the arts should develop under strict Government and ministerial control. I am sure they do much better without strict Government control. No Minister can be an arbiter of taste, and surely it would be wrong to suggest so. At any rate, at present the arts seem to be flourishing under their own impulse and I am sure that most of us believe that is the correct way at the present time.
I think what is really in my hon. Friend's mind is the idea that the 492 Treasury, which has the normal responsibility for controlling expenditure, will be mean towards the arts, and he wishes to avoid that situation. I understand that feeling. But I can assure my hon. Friends that in spite of what is said outside, so to speak, by some of those who come in daily contact with us, it seems to me that—and I am sure they would confirm this; indeed, they have done so publicly and privately—that the present system is one which appears to work well.
As to being frightened of approaching the Treasury, or anything of that sort, art is not made tongue-tied by authority at present. It is interesting, incidentally, to observe on this general subject that the current issue of the Museums Journal, in its leading article, states:Anything approaching a Ministry of Fine Arts has hitherto been treated with suspicion and, indeed, repugnance and will continue to be so regarded in many quarters.That is a very widely-held view.
I observe that my old friend Kingsley Amis, the distinguished novelist and university man, is quoted as saying:I find the thought of the Arts and the Government getting together absolutely horrific. The further they stay apart the better.Sir Oswald Sitwell is quoted as saying:Arts should be patronised by as many people as possible but nobody should direct them.There is truth and force in those observations.
§ Dr. Stross
That is true of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). That is his view, also.
§ Mr. du Cann
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me of that. It lends added weight to the point. As I say, we must keep an open mind on the subject. I do not believe the system is bad. It is not true to say that it does not work; it does.
I turn to the question of expenditure in general. I think that one of my predecessors, Mr. Simon as he then was, as Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in an earlier debate quoted the motto of Pericles—"We will cultivate the arts without extravagance." I hope that we are not extravagant, but I hope that it is the feeling of the House that we approach the whole of this problem with 493 generosity and sympathy and with the aim of giving practical help. At any rate, support for the arts ran at about £1 million before and immediately after the war. It will run next year, if Parliament so wills, at about £11 million.
The amount for the arts is consistently increasing, a point which will be reassuring to my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth. This becomes apparent when one examines the British Museum Bill which we are discussing. We propose to spend £10 million on one new library and £1 million on another. We are also making an allocation for the establishment of a National Theatre. The Government contribution on capital cost alone must be at least £1 million, which justifies the point that great progress is being made and will continue to be made.
Adverting to the long look to which I referred, in a number of grants normally carried on Class VIII, Vote 16, notably the basic grant to the British Academy, certainty and assurance are being given to various national institutions in relation to their expenditure in the future. This refers particularly to the Arts Council whose grants have been fixed for the next three years ahead, giving an annual increase year by year of approximately 10 per cent. There are other bodies which I could quote, such as the museums and galleries, which we are currently reviewing with the same principle in mind: we are engaged, with the help of the Standing Commission, in working out a building programme for museums and galleries over the next eight years. This is the policy, continuing and developing help for the arts in the future. I am talking primarily about these special grants.
The right hon. Member for South Shields was very much on the point when he talked about rising costs. This is a very important matter, and a very difficult one, but I should like to say a word about the way the system works. The trustees of the national collections are expected to rely for the purchase of new acquisitions in general on their regular annual purchase grants. However, the Government are ready to look sympathetically at requests for special grants in exceptional circumstances. They then expect the trustees of the applicant institutions to contribute what they can from their annual Exchequer grant, sup- 494 plemented by what they can provide from trust funds, private subscriptions, appeals to the general public and charitable foundations. One might describe the matter as a sort of combined operation, involving the institutions themselves with their ever-increasing funds, private sources, and, last, but by no means least, the Government, and the system works well enough.
Before the debate I was taking out the figures of the total of special grants to museums and galleries since the end of the war. The total figures are about £1.28 million out of a total price figure of £2.12 million. In other words, the total of these special grants is approximately 60 per cent. of the total cost in the cases where the Treasury was asked for money. I hope again that my hon. Friend feels reassured, for this is basically the system. Here is this money available for these institutions.
This is a situation where, in general, the amount of money is increasing. But should special situations arise, should these institutions come suddenly and beg for money, there is a wise provision which, with the approval of the whole House, arranges for contingencies. If these contingencies arise we are ready—this is in reply to the hon. Member for Islington, East—to look sympathetically at any proposition which is put before us. I share the hon. Gentleman's disappointment that we have not always had the successes that we would have wished, but it is right that the House should take some pride in the fact that we have made a number of very important acquisitions over the years since the end of the war. I do not doubt that we shall make more as time goes on.
I have been asked about tax concessions. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet feels particularly strongly about this subject and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central wished me to say something on it. It is a difficult subject because tax concessions in this respect plainly would involve a number of problems. One is the difficulty of discriminating between various worthy bodies, whether charitable bodies like the R.S.P.C.A., on the one hand, and museums and galleries, on the other.
Sometimes situations arise in which, as a matter of equity, they have to be considered, and it is difficult to separate 495 one from the other. Gifts of money or gifts in kind are different from specific gifts such as objects, pictures and paintings. A concession to enable gifts to be set against Surtax would give rise to exactly the sort of difficulties which we had in relation to covenants. It has certainly been the policy of this country to support public collections with monies voted by Parliament. This proposal would mean a specific policy change.
There is another very important and valuable concession, and that is that the national collections, in common with charities generally, already enjoy exemption from estate duty on gifts inter vivos after one year.
It has been said that the Treasury should not have a closed mind on this subject. We certainly do not have a closed mind. We have certainly been thinking about it, although it is right to point out that the superficial attractions of the idea seem, perhaps, less important than some of the real technical difficulties.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge and other hon. Members spoke of the creative use of leisure by the mass of our people. Certainly, they have more leisure, and it is vital that we do all we can to encourage them to use it wisely and prÒperly. My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth spoke of the developing interest in the arts and said that we ignore it at our peril. How right she is. I entirely agree with her. It is the policy of the Government and I believe of the House of Commons as a whole in a bipartisan way to develop our artistic culture in all its aspects. We have a superb national heritage. It is in trust for the nation to manage and to develop it well. It is certainly our determination to succeed in doing this for the pleasure and profit of this generation and, perhaps, more especially for those to come.
§ Question put and agreed to.