HC Deb 07 March 1966 vol 725 cc1701-2
24. Mr. Hamling

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what principles of Government policy govern the grant of assistance from public funds towards the preservation of historic houses.

Mr. C. Pannell

Grants can be made only for buildings of outstanding historic or architectural interest.

Mr. Hamling

Should not these buildings of historic importance which are receiving grants from public funds become public property?

Mr. Pannell

There may or may not be a case for that, but I am proceeding under my powers to see that we do the best we possibly can for them and that both the State and the owner make a just contribution.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how much it would cost the taxpayer if the Duke of Marlborough gave Blenheim Palace back to the nation?

Mr. Pannell

The hon. Gentleman can work out his own sums for himself.

35. Sir P. Agnew

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what was the total sum expended by his Department on historic buildings in his charge in each of the years from 1960 to 1965.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Building and Works (Mr. James Boyden)

£1.2 million, £1.4 million, £1.5 million, £1.6 million and £1.9 million respectively in round figures.

Sir P. Agnew

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether these figures represent an increase in real terms, divorced from the general fall in the value of money, and whether the sums spent have been matched each year by an increasing number of the public making use of the facilities accorded as a condition of the grants?

Mr. Boyden

Yes, Sir. For 1965–66 the provision is even better. It is £2.1 million. The revenue from admissions has also gone up—from £250,000 in 1960–61 to nearly £500,000 in 1964–65.

36. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what public events are planned to take place at historic buildings in his charge during 1966.

Mr. Boyden

Thirty have been agreed and two are being considered.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Could the hon. Gentleman give a little more detail of what is included in these 30? Although it is a very long list, one would like a little more information about it.

Mr. Boyden

I will write to the hon. and learned Gentleman. The list ranges from an exhibition in the Abbey Chapter House to a single performance by a madrigal society at St. Andrews Castle, Scotland, and includes celebration of 1066 and all that.

37. Mr. Blaker

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what new facilities for public access to historic buildings in his charge will be available in 1966.

Mr. Boyden

Improved parking, better sign posting, earlier seasonal opening, better approaches—as for example at the Tower of London, to mention only a few improvements.