§ (1) A local authority may make a charge for admission to a museum or art gallery maintained by it under section 12 of this Act.
§ (2) In determining whether, and in what manner, to exercise its powers under this section in relation to a museum or gallery, a local authority shall take into account the need to secure that the museum or gallery plays its full part in the promotion of education in the area, and shall have particular regard to the interests of children and students.—[Sir E. Boyle.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
67 This new Clause arises out of a discussion we had in Standing Committee on 30th April, our last sitting upstairs. It empowers local authorities to charge for admission to museums or art galleries which they maintain, but subsection (2) requires them to take account of the interests of education. I think I am interpreting the wish of the whole Standing Committee in saying that when we discussed this matter it was felt that we should spell out this point specifically, and subsection (2) does that. As the law stands—and I say this particularly for the benefit of that minority of the House who were not upstairs in Standing Committee—local authorities may charge for admission to their art galleries but not museums, apart from those which are provided under the Museums and Gymnasiums Act, 1891, and certain museums for which charges are authorised under local Acts. In addition, charges for admission can be made where a museum is housed in an ancient monument.
There was widespread feeling in Committee that there was little reason for this distinction. In practice it is hard to say whether an institution is a museum or art gallery. Still less it is reasonable to attempt to distinguish between different types of museums; for example, to distinguish between a natural history and a folk museum. Nor would it be practicable, for museums very often contain a wide range of objects.
For the reasons I gave in Committee upstairs, I agree that the original Clause, which we negatived, was clearly unsatisfactory. It is clear from the Survey of the Standing Commission that there is a considerable variety in the circumstances of museums—in what they have to offer and in the type of person they are likely to attract. After consideration, my right hon. and learned Friend and I have concluded that it would not be practicable to prescribe by law which museum should be allowed to charge and which should not or what classes of person, if any, should be exempted.
For example, in Committee we had some discussion on this subject, when the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Sir B. Stross) came to acquiesce in the view that there were real difficulties in giving local authorities power to 68 charge non-residents but not residents. We believe that the best course is to let local authorities decide each case on its merits, and that is what we have done in the new Clause.
I must make it plain, both to the House and outside, that the Clause is not in any way intended to encourage local authorities to introduce charges where they do not already exist without regard to the interests of education. It is not a matter of indifference to either the Government or the House as a whole that the best possible use is made of museums and art galleries. We all felt in Standing Committee that these institutions have an important educational function to perform, and that is why subsection (2) specifically states that:…a local authority shall take into account the need to secure that the museum or gallery plays its full part in the promotion of education in the area, and shall have particular regard to the interests of children and students.Those words are integral to the Clause.
§ Mr. Willey
My hon. Friends and I appreciate that what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but I should like to make it clear that if we accept the new Clause we will do so with the greatest reluctance. We would rather that the right hon. Gentleman accepted, as we have for public libraries, the general principle that they should be free—and then endeavour to define the exceptions. We do not quarrel with what he has said, but we believe that we should approach this matter as we have in regard to public libraries; that they should be free.
We accept the view of the Libraries Association and the Roberts Committee, that it should be a free service. We also accept the right hon. Gentleman's proposals about parts of the service, exceptional parts, being subject to a charge, because we realise that otherwise there might be a disincentive to some authorities to make the provision of certain things which it is desirable should be provided. We take the same view in this respect, and we are obliged for what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Government not expecting a general imposition of charges.
We also appreciate the qualification made in subsection (2) of the Clause. It is without sanction, but not without value and, of course, it is of considerable value 69 to indicate to local authorities that the purposes of museums, as far as they are educational, should not be prejudiced by being made subject to a charge. My hon. Friends and I hope that local authorities will pay regard to subsection (2), but it would have been far better had the right hon. Gentleman made it equally clear, as we have done for the library service, that this is essentially a free service, that it should be a free service, and that it is exceptional if we provide and legislate for charges to be made. I hope that it will be made clear outside the House that we expect this to be a free service, unless there are really exceptional circumstances, when local authorities would be right to make a charge.
The difficulty in which my hon. Friends and I find ourselves in discussing this matter is that the Government have taken a step which, by and large, we support, although this is not a museums Bill. We would have liked a museums Measure. We now have a great deal of information. Some of my hon. Friends and I pressed in Standing Committee for there to be something like a further Report or a White Paper on museums. We now have some information, but I am sure that all hon. Members would not like this occasion to pass without it being made clear that we would have liked to have had a purely museums Bill. However, we must consider this matter in its present context.
All hon. Members felt in Standing Committee, when we considered the provisions of the Bill as originally drafted—and which we amended—that we faced two difficulties. The Parliamentary Secretary explained the first—that to preserve the status quo was not as easy a matter as the Government had assumed. Secondly, during our discussions, our attention was drawn to the difficulties of some authorities, such as York and Bath.
When discussing the subject of allowing local authorities to charge, we should consider the present situation; and we are obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the initiative he took, I believe in another capacity. Consider, for example, what was stated in the Survey of Provincial Museums and Galleries. The Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries recommended in paragraph 208:In the light of such a Report, and such recommendations, it is very disappointing merely to get a new Clause that allows local authorities to have a power they did not previously have to charge for admission to museums.
- (1) That all local authorities should, as a matter of urgency, join with the other local
70 authorities and voluntary organisations maintaining museums in their area, in reviewing the provision of museums in their area, and prepare a co-ordinated scheme for improvements and developments, and that their review should include the provision of school museum services;
- (2) That Her Majesty's Government should be prepared to give financial assistance up to the equivalent of the amount subscribed locally, towards the initial expense of setting up schemes for the mutual help of museums in the ways suggested …and in so far as these schemes involve the provision of free or subsidised services to the poorer museums, that Her Majesty's Government should be prepared to contribute up to the equivalent of the amount subscribed locally to this continuing expense…
- (3) That Her Majesty's Government should be prepared to make grants up to the equivalent of the amount subscribed locally to assist museums which are unable to raise capital for the buildings, show-cases, lighting, etc., which are necessary for approved development and reorganisation…"
Throughout the progress of this Bill we have argued that one of its weaknesses is that the Government are not financially supporting the provision of an adequate library service. Here we have the same position, where their attention has been called to the condition of museums and art galleries. I say at once, however, that this new Clause is far less discouraging than one would have expected. I note, and I shall be happy to visit them when in the locality, that there are excellent museums and art galleries in the country; there are some works of art I have noted that I wish to see when in the vicinity. But this is a national heritage, and one should not just have a new Clause allowing charges to be made, but some constructive response from the Government.
First of all, therefore, we can appreciate the Government's reasons for bringing forward this provision, but here, again, they are legislating on the cheap. They are not giving that constructive assistance and aid to local authorities that they should be providing if they want a considerable improvement, as we all do, in the provision of museums and art 71 galleries. In particular, we say to the right hon. Gentleman that if he calls attention, as he should, to the importance of the museum and the art gallery in the promotion of education in the area, this is a responsibility that he ought partly to shoulder.
In the light of the Report and the survey, it is not enough to tell the House, "We are cognisant of the difficulties of local authorities in providing museums, so we shall allow them to make charges." I expected to hear far more from the right hon. Gentleman today about this problem. We have this important survey. We never have adequate opportunity in this House to debate such reports. Here was the opportunity, not only for the right hon. Gentleman to call attention to the Report but also to give some information on what action the Government intended to take in support of such charges as may be made and such assistance as local authorities may get from imposing such charges.
When we turn to the information in the Report of the cases in which charges are made and those in which they are not made there is nothing at all to support the provisions of this Clause. It is surprising, when one sees some of the remarkable provision made by progressive authorities of museums, and particularly of art galleries, to find that, almost invariably, there is no charge, and to find, too, that where a charge is made there are only a few exceptional cases in which it materially contributes to the cost of the maintenance of the museums.
It is true, looking at this appendix, that Stratford makes more money than anywhere else—it says £24,000 here—but we know that as an authority Stratford has not been forthcoming in making provision. It is true, too, and one would regard it as significant, and we accepted it in Standing Committee, that York has a revenue of about £12,000. There are one or two other cases in which there is a fairly substantial revenue, but they are the sort of cases one would expect—I think that I have mentioned Bath and the Royal Pavilion at Brighton. Apart from these exceptional cases, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman could generally make out a case for the need for this Clause.
This is another reason why I would argue again that this provision should 72 have been made in a way similar to that by which we provided for the public library exception; by making it quite clear that it would be allowed only in exceptional cases. There should have been some attempt at definition in this case, or some attempt at definition to ensure that the cases would be exceptional.
Having said that, I recognise, as we did in the case of public libraries, that the right hon. Gentleman is faced with the position—and one has to accept it, however much one may believe in the principle of free libraries, museums and art galleries—that the local authority associations made representations generally supporting his action. From this side, we would not wish to prejudice the provision of provincial museums and art galleries by discouraging those authorities which believe that they can get some revenue by making charges. But, studying this appendix, I should have thought that it would have been possible more closely to have defined the circumstances, if not the cases, in which a charge should be allowed.
Our lack of enthusiasm for this new Clause is caused by the Government themselves not doing sufficient. The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt later call attention to some of the things that have been done, but I am sure that he will recognise that they have been inadequate. He will recognise that if we are to improve the position radically, and make our provision more comparable with that made in other countries, much more positive, straightforward financial support will have to be given to those local authorities which enterprisingly provide museums and art galleries.
The other reluctance we have about the Clause arises from the fact that as the right hon. Gentleman will remember, when we had a very prolonged debate in the Committee about charges, many of his hon. Friends pressed him to ensure that the public library service should cease to be a free service. On one occasion I attempted to help by moving the Closure, but I could not get a majority, and the debate continued. There was considerable political pressure on the right hon. Gentleman to derogate the principle of the free library service.
In such circumstances, we have to be far more forthright than the right hon. 73 Gentleman has been so far in seeing that we do not intend any such permission as may be given by the new Clause to derogate from the general principle that our museums and art galleries are free. Many of us—and, certainly, many outside the Committee—were very disturbed by the very clear division in the Conservative Party about the financing of services such as this—
§ Sir E. Boyle
The hon. Gentleman has referred to me in this debate. I might remind him, although I am sure he recollects it, that when the Division was taken on that subject, if we ignore hon. Members opposite, on the Conservative side, in fact, the Government view was upheld by a 2 to 1 vote—by 10 votes to 5. So the hon. Gentleman should not make too heavy weather of it.
§ Mr. Willey
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I said that there was a Division, but certainly we had the most prolonged debate in the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman will recognise that it was an interesting debate and that it was largely a question of principle whether we should finance such services by way of general taxation or whether by poll tax or capitation.
If we are to allow the general principle, therefore, to be breached by this Clause, I would like the right hon. Gentleman to look at the Clause again to see whether it can be more narrowly drawn in order to make it quite clear that what the Committee would have done would be to recognise, as we did in the case of the public libraries, that there were some authorities that might have been in difficulties if the power to make charges was absolutely withdrawn.
Here we are doing something rather different. We are giving a general power to make charges. It is quite clear that we advise local authorities of the qualification which they should bear in mind if they exercise that power. I hope, however, that if the Government put forward this Clause they will accept a much greater positive responsibility themselves and that they recognise that the museum and art gallery provision is not likely to be radically improved by merely allowing some local authorities to make charges. In fact, as the Roberts Committee pointed out, in the case of public libraries this is unlikely to help very much at all.
74 Quite apart from this, however, particularly in view of the responsibility of the Government themselves for some of our national institutions, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make it much clearer than it is at present that we accept this very reluctantly and accept it merely not to prejudice some authorities which make excellent provision at present and that our purpose is to preserve the general principle that provincial museums and art galleries will remain free.
§ Mr. Denzil Freeth
I wish once again to support my right hon. Friend on this new Clause although in Standing Committee I did not actually ask him to introduce such a Clause. I take very great issue with the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) when he suggests that the same principle as regards free entry should be upheld in the case of museums—as it is upheld in the Bill generally—as in the case of public libraries.
First of all, under the Bill we demand that local authorities should provide public libraries. Under Clause 12 we merely state that local authorities may provide museums and art galleries. Secondly, we rightly insist that the library service should be comprehensive, that anybody living in any local authority's area should be able to get hold of a book, and to this end we are setting up under the Bill a system of regional councils and interlocking local arrangements.
In the case of a museum we could not possibly demand that, for instance, a mummy should be in more than one place at the same time. We cannot demand that every local authority should have a similarly sized museum. The particular type of locality, the particular interests of the educational institutions and, indeed, of past citizens will all have created the type of museum and the speciality of the museum which is in the area.
Some museums are very old established and some may well be just starting now. Some may be well endowed and some have no endowment at all. When we consider this multiplicity of variety of such museums from, say, the York and Stratford Museums, on the one hand, to the large museums of city councils on the other, and, yet again, to smaller authorities which may only now be getting with the new opportunities under the Bill the 75 chance of starting up a museum or art gallery, then I think that the only principle which it is reasonable to adopt is one which permits the local authority to adopt such charges, if any, and in whatever manner seems best to it as shall enable its museum or art gallery to be a thriving concern.
Secondly, I support my right hon. Friend on the Clause because it gives the power to local authorities when in some cases they do not have it and enables them to retain it when they do. I do not believe that we can want to take powers away from local authorities. Here we are stating quite categorically that though a library authority may be a museum and public gallery authority, even when it is not it may become one with the consent of the Minister and may adopt whatever method of finance seems best to it. Let us remember that the local authority is just as much an elected body as we are. I think it right in matters such as these that the local authority and not Parliament should be the ultimate decision-making body. Therefore, I very strongly support my right hon. Friend on the Clause.
§ Sir B. Stross
This new Clause consists of two parts. The first fragment is permissive, and only permissive, but the second part is rather different. There is a strong directive in the Clause, namely, that great care be taken as far as students and children are concerned that the full educational possibilities inherent in museums and art galleries should be taken note of. Therefore, it seems that what the Minister had in mind was that, whereas he wanted to bring some order into the picture, when he framed the Clause there was the possibility that most authorities might begin to charge. The truth is, of course, that this is most unlikely.
When on behalf of the Association of Municipal Corporations I argued an Amendment suggesting that non-residents might be charged it was because I had in mind certain art galleries and museums, such as the York, for example, where the great majority of those who came to enjoy the gallery or museum came from outside, and, very often, from abroad. Had I thought that this was not 76 the case I would not have moved the Amendment because I, like my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) who has spoken so powerfully in favour of a free museum service, believe that in principle we must adhere to such a service.
We are dealing here, however, not with our national institutions, which I am sure all of us in the House at the moment would agree must be made available freely to our people, but with what is provided by the ratepayers. The ratepayers elect their representatives, and I think it is true to say, as the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth) did, that the elected representatives are very near indeed to the people whom they serve. Therefore, I think that there is less danger of anything going wrong by way of the imposition of charges unnecessarily at that level than there is in some countries where charges are imposed for national institutions.
I think that we have a right to take great pride in the fact that our great national galleries—the Tate, the National Gallery, the British Museum, and so on—are all freely available. We know very well that this is not the case in other countries. In those countries the majority of the finance comes from foreign visitors. I think that charges tend to be a disincentive to the people of the country concerned to enjoy the very treasures which they ought to have freely available to them.
The Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North have pointed out that we were in difficulty about this because of the way in which legislation has grown up. I have had a good deal of correspondence with directors of galleries in the provinces, including Manchester, Leeds, Doncaster, Temple Newsam, and Plymouth, and as a member of the Museums Association I have some knowledge of this matter. They are against charges as a general principle but there are specific galleries, not so much art galleries as folk museums, where what is shown is not under glass but is in a series of small rooms which are difficult to police. The chance of damage is high. Damage was done at Temple Newsam until a small charge was applied. An admission charge 77 as small as 3d. was enough to bring damage down to a minimum.
In these circumstances, we have the right to say to local authorities that if this is the way in which they want to protect their museums and exhibits they should be able to do so. I support the Clause because it is permissive under subsection (1) and it gives a clear indication in subsection (2) that there must be no abuse of the question of charges and that children and students must be admitted freely even into folk museums. I hope that this will always be the case.
Stoke-on-Trent has a most interesting art gallery and museum specialising in the exhibition of pottery. I believe that we have about the third or fourth best provincial collection in the world. Our collection of old English pottery from a little earlier than Toft to the present day is better than any in the world. There has never been any thought of charges for admission, but one could imagine an occasion when in a gallery like that it was desired to give a special exhibition and to have premises large enough to show it and to bring in pottery from all over the world, to compare, for instance, old English pottery with Peruvian or Moorish work.
This would make it extremely expensive for insurance, freight, and the preparation of the exhibition, and if it were only a temporary exhibition I would not deny my local authority the right to make a charge for five or six weeks. I would be fearful that, if we did not allow charges for special exhibitions of this kind, we would tend not to have them. This is true at the national level. One cannot visit the great exhibitions at the Tate Gallery, organised by the Arts Council and other organisations, without paying an admission charge. We do not grumble about that, but we would grumble if we were ever charged for entering the Tate Gallery in normal circumstances to see our own national collection.
I therefore support the Clause. I hope that what the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North has said will be noted throughout the country. Both said in effect that they were against the principle of charging, but to make it possible for certain folk museums and other institutions to carry on with their work we 78 should allow charges to be made and, rather than make exceptions, the Clause should give permissive power to any local authority to make a charge if it so wished. We sincerely hope that in no circumstances will charges be imposed without good reason.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
In the welter of congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Education and Science, in which I join, my mind goes back to the Second Reading of the Bill during which Clause 13 as it then stood positively prohibited any charge whatever for admission to museums and art galleries. I drew attention to it at the time and said that it was a. monstrous obstacle to letting people of the locality, and of the country as a whole, see the nation's art treasures. This was chiefly because the local authorities could not be expected to kep their art galleries open without charge on Sunday afternoons and similar times when a considerable sum had to be paid to staff.
I was anxious because at the only time of the week when the mass of the population have the opportunity of seeing these things they would not have that opportunity if the veto against admission charges was maintained. My right hon. Friend has come right round, and I congratulate him on the care and the flexibility which he has shown in dealing with points raised in Committee.
This is a fine example of how a Minister should deal with a matter like this, which naturally rouses contention and digs somewhat into dearly held doctrine. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I am sure that those who love art treasures and interesting objects in museums will be eternally grateful to him, because now a great many of us will be able to see them whereas in the past we were not able to do so.
§ Mr. Sydney Irving (Dartford)
I oppose the new Clause, because it is a pity that the Bill which so courageously sustains the principle of a free library service should in its terms in other parts, even if unintentionally, open the door to a possible extension of charges for museum services. I have never been convinced that there should be a distinction between the ways in which we treat museums and libraries. Properly 79 viewed, they both have an important educational part to play in our communities. I do not want to see anything that acts as a deterrent to people, and particularly the young, using our museums.
If it hinges on whether a local authority can afford to keep its museum open on a Sunday afternoon, and if this is the criterion of charges, I am not sure that I would trust a local authority with the decision about making charges in this way. Responsibility should be viewed on a bigger canvas. It is a superficial view to consider the question of charges on the basis of whether or not it is possible to keep a museum open on a Sunday afternoon.
The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth) talked about the need for local authorities being able to make charges to make it possible for them to get off the ground in organising and developing museums. This puts a penalty on people who live in the areas of small local authorities. They cannot enjoy museums unless they are able to pay, whereas the richer authorities can provide the service out of the rates. If money is not available in any other way, the alternative is that there should be money available from Government grants. We have not yet fully exploited museums and their value as an educational service.
It is not just a question of charges. What deters many local authorities, particularly small authorities, is the difficulty of getting the initial money to reorganise old museums and to bring them up-to-date and to get them in such a state as to allow payment of the ordinary recurrent expenditure necessary to sustain them in operation. In the past, the Carnegie Trustees have helped considerably and generously in this respect. My own small authority was able to set the pattern for many bigger authorities through a Carnegie grant and the help of Dr. Swinton, and also a great deal of pulling on a shoestring. But it is this initial grant which is necessary if we are to get some of our local museums into a position where they can be of real value in the localities.
I regret very much that the new Clause should be drafted in this way, because the 80 Minister has said that it is not his intention that local authorities should charge for museum services except in exceptional circumstances. My experience of local government is extensive enough for me to know that when local authority committees consider what they will do they do not have before them either the terms of the Bill or the debates in which the Minister expressed his view—and I give the right hon. Gentleman credit for expressing himself very forcefully on this issue. I very much regret that the new Clause has not been drafted, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) said, with a general prohibition with an attempt later to try to define the exceptions which could be supported by the Minister and by the circumstances of the case.
I hope that the Minister will look at this new Clause again and will try to introduce something more of a general prohibition. If he cannot do that, I plead with him to undertake to express forcibly in a circular the view which he has expressed today so that at every stage local authorities are clear about his view.
§ Mr. Boyden
I am glad that the Minister has taken such a firm line in the second part of subsection (2) of the proposed new Clause, in which he says thata local authority shall take into account the need to secure that the museum or gallery plays its full part in the promotion of education in the area, and shall have particular regard to the interests of children and students.I say that because, in 1956, I was a member of a working party of the National Institute for Adult Education which reported on museums and adult education. The opening sentence of our report was a quotation from Dr. Douglas Allan:… museums are education. They exist only to further it; They can be neither provided, maintained, nor utilised without it".At that time this was not the generalisation that Dr. Allan said it was, and in this sense the Minister is making some progress, because by no means all curators of museums give attention to the educational side. There is a conflict in the museum world between those who are pure conservatives and those who are interested in the educational side of museums.
81 In this Report almost the first words of our own were:Deliberate educational use of museum resources is a relatively modern idea, and is hampered by uncertainties of purpose, defects in organisation, conflicts of jurisdiction and administration and by fundamental inadequacies of finance and staff.I do not know what else we could have said, but what was said then is still pretty much applicable today, and the proposed new Clause goes very little way to remedy the serious position of the museums and their function in education.
When I proposed in Committee that there should be special Government assistance for special collections in libraries, I felt that I was defrauded by the Joint Under-Secretary of State when he said that the V. and A. grant was to include libraries' special historical books and was to be doubled from £25,000 to £50,000. I thought that there was something a little odd about those figures, but I did not have with me the survey of provincial museums and galleries. Hon. Members opposite are always talking about doubling things, but when one looks into the matter one finds, as was said at Question Time today, that they are not doubling very much. The Rosse Committee, in talking about the V. and A. grant, recommended that the sum should be increased from £25,000 to £200,000 without making allowance for the concession which has been made now for the buying of specialist books for libraries. Therefore, the concession which made me uneasy was a very feeble one, and I quote it again because it is so characteristic of the way in which the Government have throughout handled the question of museums.
§ Mr. Boyden
It is recommendation 210(iv) on page 75:An increase from £25,000 to £200,000 in the Victoria and Albert Museum grant-in-aid of purchases and proportionate increase in the grant-in-aid administered by the Royal Scottish Museum: subject to review in the light of need—say £225,000".I have been very fair; I have left off the £25,000. In paragraph 211 the Committee says that this sumis also very modest in comparison with Her Majesty's Government's other grants, which we do not consider excessive, to the Arts and Sciences. But we are confident that such a sum would be wisely spent…82 This is the trouble, and I hope that the Minister will make it absolutely clear that the first part of the new Clause—with which I disagree—allowing a charge for entrance to museums or art galleries will be implemented in exceptional circumstances and will not be allowed to erode the general principle of a free library service.
I have praised the Minister for the emphasis which the new Clause puts on the educational aspect of museums, but I have a feeling that it has arisen more as a quid pro quo for the non-persistence of some reactionary hon. Members opposite who wanted to levy public assistance charges for the library service. They were talking in an atmosphere that went back to Chadwick's Poor Law—the principle of less eligibilty—which, if my history is correct, dates from 1834. Hon. Members opposite are 130 years out of date, and I cannot see why the Minister needs to give them any sort of quid pro quo. However, I feel that this is the reason for it and, by their deeds, we shall know them. If the Minister and his hon. Friends continue in office, they must resist to the full any attempt to erode the principle of a free museum and library service.
May I be allowed to say one other thing arising from the Rosse Committee's Report. It relates to the second part of the new Clause dealing with the rôle of education. The Rosse Committee made some very strong and intelligent recommendations about school museum services in order to encourage the use of museums at the adult stage. This body, which is not primarily educational in purpose, came to the very good conclusion that interest in museums and art galleries must start in the schools. It made this strong recommendation on the page which I have quoted on which it recommended that there should be assistance for a circulation department for the Science Museum and that there should be considerable assistance for training schemes and for the area councils. This, too, amounts to a fairly considerable sum, £225,000.
What we are saying now about the education functions of museums is not really possible without relatively minor steps being taken in this other respect. Again, I must refer the Minister to a remark which he made in Committee 83 when he said that the estimate for area museum councils for the current year was £16,000. That is much lower than the figure recommended by the Rosse Committee, which suggested £150,000.
We are faced with quite inadequate financial provision and a possibility that charges may be used to finance what they should never finance. A declaration is necessary from the Minister that his words about encouraging the educational function of museums will be matched purely on the educational side by much greater steps in the development of the school museum services.
On that subject, the Rosse Committee said in paragraph 196:We strongly recommend the extension of school museum services all over the country. Schools in rural districts, however, cannot make full use of a two-way service. For them, the important feature of the museum service is the loan service…. There are large areas, notably in the North of England and in Scotland, where there is at present neither a museum nor a loan service; and we are in full agreement with Miss Winstanley's view that the extension of loan services all over the country is a particularly urgent need.There is an exception in County Durham, where we now have a school museum service and where the Bowes Museum plays a prominent part in it. That was one of the things for which I worked hard when I was on the county council, and it is one of the reasons why I stress the point at this juncture.
I conclude with a further paragraph from the Rosse Committee:It seems to us impossible to over-estimate the importance to future generations of teaching children the use and significance of museum objects, and we urge those local authorities which have not yet developed, or assisted museums in their areas to develop, a school museum service to do so without delay; and especially to provide a loan service in all rural areas.I hope that the Minister will indicate that he will take action in the Ministry of Education to develop this side, otherwise it makes a mockery of the statement that galleries and museums are to play a vital rôle in education. In other words, it throws back to the local authorities what should not have been left to them in the libraries—the fact of having to finance the whole thing themselves, with practically no assistance from the general grant.
§ Mr. O'Malley
My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) has raised the important point that the museums and art gallery services are part of the education sysem. On looking at the new Clause and at Clause 12 of the Bill, which deals with museums and art galleries, I would say at once that in the Bill the Government have done little to advance and improve the standards of museums and art galleries.
Too often, the general picture is one of neglect, sometimes of the complete absence of museum and art gallery services. I would have hoped that when the occasion arose for the Government to present a Bill which affects museums and art galleries, they would have given us something better than these two Clauses, both of which are permissive. My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland said that he was pleased to see the inclusion of subsection (2) in the new Clause. It seems to me that hon. Members on both sides welcome that subsection, although one wonders how effective it will be.
There are a number of questions which should be asked about it. It is all very well to say that local authoritiesshall take into account the need to secure that the museum or gallery plays its full part in the promotion of education in the area",but the subsection goes on to say that the local authorityshall have particular regard to the interests of children and students.Is it the Minister's intention that children and students will in no circumstances be charged for entry to art galleries and museums? Subsection (1) of the new Clause empowers local authorities to make a charge. Subsection (2) recognises that it is important that museums and art galleries should be for the benefit of the educational service and for children and students.
If a local authority decides to impose a charge for admission to its museums or art galleries, will the charge include children and students? If so, will it be a partial or a full charge? Will the local authority be able to charge children and students from its own area, on the one hand, and people from outside its area, on the other? When we have a national system of education, it would be nonsensical to draw arbitrary 85 distinctions according to where people live.
The Government began with the basic assumption that they wished to preserve the status quo concerning museums and art galleries. I listened with sympathy to some of the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Sir B. Stross). One recognises that there are museums which have a real claim to make a charge of some kind in special circumstances. It is eminently reasonable to allow the authorities which run such services to continue to do so because of those limited and special services.
Apparently, however, to enable that kind of situation to continue for a minority with special services, the Government, instead of drafting detailed provisions to allow those special services to continue, have come forward with a new Clause which will allow all local authorities to make a charge for admission to museums or art galleries maintained by them.
The Minister said that the Government did not intend to encourage local authorities to make a charge, and this may well be the case. My fear is that once this provision goes on to the Statute Book, local authorities will not be concerned with reading what the Minister has said about the Government's intentions. We will, in fact, be giving local authorities power to charge at their own discretion. What made me fear that the gates might open wide was the remark made by an hon. Member opposite that if local authorities find it expensive, presumably because of salaries, to keep museums and art galleries open on a Sunday afternoon, it is entirely reasonable that they should be able to make a charge.
If there is one time during the week when museums and art galleries should be open, it is a Sunday afternoon. If we are to get that kind of argument, local authorities will be able to decide all kinds of special circumstances which many of us who are interested in this part of the educational service would regard as having no validity.
Therefore, while I appreciate the Government's motives in the new Clause, it seems to me that to preserve the privilege of a few local authorities to make charges in special circumstances 86 the Government would have done much better and served the interests of the educational system more satisfactorily by introducing a Clause to deal with those special circumstances in detail rather than introducing the kind of Clause that they have done today.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I regret to see the right hon. Gentleman bringing in this Clause, for I believe it to be thoroughly reactionary and against the tradition of the country. It could be made a vehicle for considerably reducing the cultural opportunities of large numbers of citizens, both young and old. In the nineteenth century this country, by a series of measures, threw open, as wide as the circumstances of the time permitted, access to knowledge, to education, and to all the refining arts, which are helped to be spread by the existence of museums and galleries.
It seems a sad thing that today the Minister in charge of the Bill should be proposing the line which has been criticised, to my mind, so appropriately, by those who have spoken in the debate. I cannot think that it helps the general level of knowledge and culture that this kind of attitude should be adopted by the Government.
I am the more unhappy to see associated with this new Clause the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), whose family, after all, in the nineteenth century did a very great deal towards providing in one way and another for, incidentally, higher education of large sections of the populace.
I sincerely hope that the Minister has not said the last word yet on the Government's attitude towards this matter and that we may get some return to the more liberal attitude of the last century rather than be stuck in the mud in which the Government have managed to get themselves engulfed in the present century. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to find some way of meeting the various points which have been raised by my hon. Friends who have spoken.
§ Mrs. White
I do not want to come between the Minister and the House, but I think that the very eloquent plea made by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), which, I am 87 sure, must have impressed hon. Members on both sides of the House, should be reinforced from this Box.
We are very much worried about this new Clause, which has been put in to replace the defunct Clause 13. It was made perfectly clear when, in Committee, we debated Clause 13 that it had been put into the Bill without adequate consideration, for it was withdrawn, and it is a very unusual thing for a Clause to be withdrawn entirely from a Bill at the suggestion of the Minister who introduced the Bill. Therefore, I think that we are entitled to ask, in these unusual parliamentary circumstances, whether adequate consideration has really now been given to this matter.
The difficulty about the Clause for which this new Clause is a substitute was, so we were told by the Joint Under-Secretary of State, that it was believed that it maintained the status quo. The hon. Gentleman said:However, on further examination and consultation "—which had not taken place before the Clause was originally drafted—the status quo has proved to be a good deal more difficult to maintain than we had supposed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 30th April, 1964; c. 474.]The hon. Gentleman explained the variety of provisions made for different establishments, different museums and art galleries, some of which were dealt with under private legislation; of others it was difficult to know whether or no they were entirely museums, in which case they would probably not be allowed to charge, or possibly partly art galleries, in which case they might be allowed to charge. There were various anomalies.
The way out chosen by the Government is, in effect, to continue the anomalies instead of doing what my right hon. Friend has said: let us make a clean sweep of all this, and as libraries are free, so should museums and art galleries be free. After all, there is really no difference in principle, though there may be some difficulties locally, here and there, and of expediency, but to say that we can charge people to see a picture in York and not in Trafalgar Square seems odd to say the least of it. I do not think that any of us would wish to see this regarded as the thin end of the wedge 88 whereby great national collections should be subject to charges. I am sure that that was not in the Minister's mind.
We really are concerned about this because we have no guarantee in the new Clause, as it is and as we are discussing it—we have not yet reached the Amendment down to it—that local authorities will put the first interests of the general public first. This is a sort of tax on knowledge, a tax on aesthetic experience. We should, I think, stand up for the principle that the general public have a right to enjoy these collections, if they come under public authorities at all.
If we felt that a local authority was really straining itself to maintain its museum or art gallery, and that it could not manage it without relying on the odd 3d. or 6d., we might possibly have a little sympathy, though even there it might be misplaced, but when we look at the facts we are not at all convinced that those who have the honour to maintain museums or art galleries are really doing all they could.
I am reinforced in this by the Report of the Standing Committee which discussed the matter of rate finance, which is one of the alternatives to making charges. It points out that in England, Wales, and Scotland, 204 boroughs, and 16 large burghs in Scotland, maintain museums. Of these, about half spend less than Id. rate on those museums; 66 spend between Id. and 2d.; 19 between 2d. and 3d.; and of the 14 which spend more than a 3d. rate, Halifax, Norwich, Bath, Brighton, York and Keighley spend up to 6d. All I am suggesting is that if more than half of the authorities which have museums are prepared to spend less than a 1d. rate on those museums I do not think that we should be falling over ourselves to empower them to make charges.
I most emphatically agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley)—I am sorry, in this instance, at least, to part company from the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite—that Sunday afternoon is the very time when one should be able to take one's family and children to visit a museum or art gallery, and that the continental system of closing, if need be, on Monday, to meet the needs of the staff, is surely the way to deal with it. I do not think that the Sunday afternoon argument—if I may 89 call it that—for making charges is at all a strong one.
I think that it is only right to express our very deep concern at what we consider is really a retreat instead of an advance. The Government, having found their original Clause unsatisfactory—we are not quarrelling with them about that, except that they did not take steps to consult and inquire before drafting it—instead of going forward more positively and saying, "Here are all these anomalies; they are more complex than we supposed them to be; the best thing, therefore, is to advance" have, on the contrary, in effect, retreated.
It seems to us that this is a very doubtful provision to put into a Bill one of the purposes of which, after all, is to improve not only the library resources of the country but also the museums and art galleries. We have complained before that museums and art galleries come in at the tag end. It seems that the Clause supports our view that inadequate consideration has been given to the needs of these institutions and that nothing has been promised them by way of adequate subventions from national or local sources. It is for these reasons that these odd amounts—2d., 3d., 6d. and sometimes rather more—are still being collected.
It is an unsatisfactory Clause. It is only proper that we should make clear that we are not happy about it and are delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields has put the matter to the House with his usual clarity and distinction.
§ Mr. Costain
The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said he thought this a retrograde step. I do not agree. The right hon. Gentleman did not have the benefit of the discussion that we had in Committee. I support the new Clause, particularly subsection (2), which gives sufficient safeguards for students who want to visit museums. I also welcome the Clause because it has some safeguards for the interests of the ratepayers, interests which the House ought to have very much in mind.
The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) suggested that this might be a retrograde step in respect of museums. If, on certain occasions, the public were prepared to pay to visit 90 museums, that should encourage, not discourage, better museums. Whenever museum expenditure arises, there is always someone on the local authority who will ask what they are getting out of it. If it is proved that the public will pay to visit museums, we may get a better museum structure, and derive better educational facilities from it.
We should also bear in mind the increase in the tourist trade. Many tourists coming to this country are used to paying to visit art galleries and museums on the continent, and sometimes they may even judge the quality and status of a museum by the fact that they have to pay to visit it. The fact that an entrance fee has to be paid might even encourage visits by people who do not normally go to museums. Knowing that they can get in for nothing may not encourage them to visit museums.
§ Mrs. White
Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that the logic of his argument is that we should charge more for the National Gallery than for any other gallery, because it has the finest collection?
§ Mr. Costain
That may be so, but the National Gallery is so well known that it is not necessary, though I do not suggest for a moment that it might not get more visitors if it charged.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
To remove any misapprehension, the leave of the House is not required by the right hon. or hon. Member in charge of a Bill.
§ Sir E. Boyle
Thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
It is now about an hour and a quarter since the hen. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) said that he reluctantly accepted the new Clause, since when the Opposition attitude has been hardening. Perhaps it is time for me to say a few words.
In answer to the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), it is important to remember that the Clause does not enshrine a completely new principle. As I said on Second Reading, as the law stands local authorities can charge for admission to their art galleries.
91 In considering whether the Clause should or should not be read a Second time, we come back to what my hon. Friend and I said in Committee. It seemed to me that there were conclusive reasons for saying that we could not keep the status quo. That left two alternatives. We either had to legislate to take away the right to charge where it already existed, or we had to legislate to give local authorities discretion as to whether to charge or not.
There is the third possibility—in deference to my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn) I will not call it the third alternative—of trying to list precisely the circumstances in which local galleries and museums should be able to charge, but I think that that would have been the most impracticable of all the possibilities. I also agree, as I said in Committee, that none of us wishes positively to recommend local authorities that there should be charges.
Faced with the two real alternatives, we have, I believe, taken the right course in giving local authorities discretion as to whether to charge or not and by accompanying that discretion with a subsection which speaks clearly about the need of a local authority to secure that its museum or gallery plays its full part in the promotion of education in the area. I think that the new Clause is the first occasion on which we have laid down actually in terms in legislation the part which the museum service plays in the education system. That seems to me to give some added importance to the new Clause.
In answer to the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley), I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend will consider the feasibility and the timing of circularising local authorities on the importance of the museum service. However, I think that he will recognise that circulars have to be well timed and based on existing practice and experience to some extent, and a premature circular is not often of great value. But I agree that the time is coming when we should pool our experience and views on the importance of this service to the schools.
Towards the end of his speech, the hon. Member came near to justifying what is sometimes said by Conservatives about drab equality and uniformity. 92 He overlooked the fact that one cannot have a local museum service evenly spread over the country in the same way as one can have a public library service. The essence of the local museum service is that there will be a variety of local museums in different parts of the counttry. As I said in Committee, some are associated with military history and others with local collections, and the cost of maintaining these museums must vary very much. So it is not unreasonable that there should be less uniformity of practice than in the case of the library service.
My last point relates to the central Government's part in connection with provincial museums and art galleries. What I have to say will not be without interest to the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden). He will agree that when he made his enquiry in 1956 the amount of the special grant then going through the Victoria and Albert Museum was £1,000, and now it is £50,000. So there has been a change since that time. In addition, there is always the possibility in the exceptional case of a special purchase grant through the Victoria and Albert Museum. I mention this because I was responsible for the one special purchase grant so far given for the Walker Art Gallery. One reason for the special grant, which was criticised at the time by a number of bodies—I had some very rude letters about it from certain circles—was that it went to a local community which had done so much to collect money itself.
I believe that this is the best solution to a difficult problem, and, therefore, I hope that the House will now agree to give the Clause a Second Reading.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time.
§ Mr. Willey
I beg to move as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, after "charge", to insert:not exceeding such amount as may be specified in that behalf by the Secretary of State".This is a continuous debate. I know that we are on Report and that one cannot speak twice without leave. I do not want to go back on the debate we have just had, but I do not think that the Minister's Clause is the best possible solution. It is merely the best solution 93 we have before us. We seek to improve it with this Amendment, which I am hopeful the right hon. Gentleman will accept.
I am sure that he will not challenge the drafting. He will recognise that the words are taken from his own Bill. He made similar provision when considering exceptions in the case of libraries. I think that the words could be improved upon, but I hope that he will accept the principle of the Amendment and then consider improving the drafting. All that was said in the debate we have just finished supports acceptance of the Amendment.
It is quite clear that we have been in the difficulty of considering a Bill which initially dealt with libraries and not museums. Provision was eventually made in it for museums, which had been incidentally referral to in the Roberts Report, but not sufficient consideration was given to their position. When we encountered this difficulty in Committee upstairs, we were assured by the Government that the steps they had taken to preserve the status quo were effective. Now we have a couple of Clauses that we do not very much like, since we do not want to prejudice those authorities which are making exceptional provision and which also rely, to a greater or lesser degree, on charges.
I emphasise again that if the right hon. Gentleman refers to the Appendix he will see that this is not a difficult matter to deal with. Remarkably few authorities impose charges. By and large, those which do have particular reasons. However, we were faced with this difficulty in Committee, and that was why we allowed the original Clause 13. The number 13 may be somewhat unlucky in this Bill. Indeed, it may be unlucky for the Government. The Government might find themselves just entering their 13th year of office when they are defeated.
§ Sir E. Boyle
This is not to be found in the Bill, and even in the unhappy and unlikely contingency the hon. Gentleman is considering he is surely mathematically inaccurate.
§ Mr. Willey
I do not know how authoritatively the right hon. Gentleman is speaking. I was assuming for present purposes that the Government would go into their 13th year. The right hon. Gentleman 94 is saying that he is allowing a general permissive power but has no intention that it should be exercised generally. If so, he is obliged to accept the Amendment. He has qualified the power by the reference in subsection (2) of the new Clause, but if that is to be an effective qualification it provides a further argument for acceptance of the Amendment.
I know that some local authority associations would say that this would be a paternalistic interference by the Minister, but he himself has followed this course in the case of the public libraries. He said that in their case, if the principle of free entry is breached, the consent of the Minister must be given to the amount to be charged. The same principle surely applies to museums, in view of the general reluctance to extend the provision of charges for museums and galleries. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept this responsibility.
The right hon. Gentleman is apparently overtly setting out to extend the provision of charges for museums and art galleries. If that is his intention, he should accept responsibility by accepting the Amendment, which would ensure that no such extension could occur unless he was convinced that there were exceptional circumstances. He should also accept it on the ground that he himself has made a specific qualification—the part which museums and galleries play in the promotion of education.
For all these reasons, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment, remembering the circumstances in which he made a similar condition requisite in the case of public libraries. I hope that he will recognise the apprehension—the proper apprehension—about providing this general permissive power. It would allay that apprehension and provide for adequate ministerial responsibility if he accepted the Amendment.
§ Mr. Boyden
I support the Amendment on two grounds. There has been some consensus of agreement upon two types of charges—the "hooligan" charge and the charge for special circumstances, such as exhibitions. Both these need closely watching. I do not accept the argument, put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central 95 (Sir B. Stross), that the "hooligan" charge does its job, although I know I have against me experienced curators of museums who say that it does. Careful thought should be given to seeing whether levying charges of this description is the right way to protect museums against people who do not go there for proper purposes. Such charges allowed in this way should be very limited and carefully scrutinised. That is one reason for the Amendment.
The second kind of charge is that for special exhibitions, and this is also something that needs watching over a period, for it is conceivable that the amount of money raised in some places for special exhibitions could distort the whole nature of the museum or art gallery locally. We should be very cautious about extending this principle and very carefully watch the two cases in which strong argument has been put forward for charges.
§ Sir E. Boyle
The Amendment would enable the Secretary of State to fix a maximum charge for entrance to a museum. I recognise that this is a permissive power, one which he need not exercise if he did not wish to do so. I am not putting a critical point in saying that I am not sure whether the analogy with Clause 8(2) quite holds good. It is surely defensible to prescribe maximum charges for uniform services, such as the reservation of books, and there is no reason why different local authorities should impose different fines on people who fail to return books within the prescribed period.
But there is no such uniformity in the facilities provided by museums, and there is no reason, a priori, why a large museum should not charge rather more than the small one. I imagine that the hon. Members for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) would not intend that the Secretary of State should attempt to frame general rules governing charges for admission to museums and art galleries. The circumstances of different local museums vary so widely that no general rule about charges for admission could be appropriate to all of them. The circumstances of each museum must be considered individually, and this requires local knowledge both of the museum itself and of the public likely 96 to use it. As a general principle, this decision is best left to the local authority which alone knows the local circumstances.
However, there is the question raised by the Amendment of whether my right hon. and learned Friend should have, as it were, a reserve power of policing charges. Frankly, I find myself influenced by two opposite considerations, to both of which the House should give some weight. It could fairly be argued that this is a matter for local government and that local authorities should have the power of decision. It is reasonable to assume that an authority which is ready to maintain a local museum will not fix charges for admission so high as to deter people from using it. In general, this is a matter on which it is right to pay a very high regard to what local bodies wish to do.
At the same time, I am conscious of the fact that in subsection (2) of the new Clause we specifically refer to the need to see that the museum or gallery plays its full part in the promotion of education. In other words, we lay down a specific concern for the local authority to have in mind. In those circumstances, there seems to be a more logical case for what I would call a reserve policing power in the hands of my right hon. and learned Friend than if we had no such provision as subsection (2). I recognise that it could be argued that some remedy should be available for people who consider that a local authority has not paid due regard to educational considerations and that in an extreme case my right hon. and learned Friend should have power himself to fix museum charges.
I have given considerable thought to this matter and, on balance, after considering all the arguments—and such contacts as I have had outside have been rather doubtful about and in one case somewhat hostile to the Amendment—I am prepared to consider the matter again in the light of the debate, and on the understanding that the Secretary of State would be expected to use this only as an exceptional power if there really were reason to suppose that an authority was acting unreasonably.
It would be wrong for me to accept the Amendment as it stands, for two reasons. The first is that I am not sure 97 that what is in Clause 8(2) is the best possible wording for this purpose. Secondly, I would not wish to give an absolute undertaking or commitment until we have had the chance of further consultations on this matter. Subject to those consultations, I can tell the House that it is my own feeling that a reasonable case can be made for the spirit of the Amendment, bearing in mind the special provisions and the special conditions laid down in subsection (2) of the new Clause. With my undertaking to consider the matter before the Bill goes to another place, I hope that the hon. Member will not feel it necessary to pursue the matter further.
§ Mr. Willey
The House is much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. As I said, I am not altogether satisfied with the language which we have chosen for the Amendment. I thought that as it savoured of language which had previously been used by the right hon. Gentleman it might be more acceptable to him, but I accept at once that there is not an exact parallel between this proposal and the provision in Clause 8(2). However, the circumstances are similar.
I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman accepts that as a qualification is placed upon the exercise of the local authority's power, expressly to take into account the need to secure that a museum or gallery plays its full part in the promotion of education in the area concerned, there is a residual responsibility on the right hon. and learned Gentleman. That is the main consideration which we have had in mind.
I emphasise the other consideration, although I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman accepts it. I fully accept that this would be a difficult matter to determine, because so much would depend on local circumstances, not only on local provision for the museum, but on where the museum was. The right hon. Gentleman should pay closer regard to our anxiety that this power should not be widely used. This is a permissive power, and I think we can rely very largely on the good sense of local authorities. We are not anxious to see the power extended, and for that reason there is an additional factor which the right hon. Gentleman should take into account. It is that, although there is not an exact parallel between the provision 98 of museums and art galleries and the provision of public libraries, nevertheless we wish to preserve in either case the general principle of free access.
We should recognise that, as with libraries, we are here concerned with preserving the national heritage and that it would be only in exceptional circumstances that a local authority would be expected to make charges. It is largely only in exceptional cases today that these charges are made. While we thank the right hon. Gentleman for his assurance, I hope that he will bear these factors in mind when he is considering an Amendment for another place. In view of what he has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment to the proposed Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause added to the Bill.