HC Deb 06 February 1969 vol 777 cc576-7
32. Mr. Kenneth Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he intends to implement the recommendations of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art concerning the export of documents and manuscripts; and whether he will make a statement.

Miss Jennie Lee

I am considering these recommendations carefully, but I am not yet in a position to make a statement. It is a very much more complex matter than appears at first sight.

Mr. Baker

Could I press the right hon. Lady to consider this matter urgently, since many people are concerned about the flow of British documents and manuscripts, particularly to American and German universities? Could she state the Government policy within the next few weeks?

Miss Lee

I am giving this matter urgent consideration. On common sense grounds, it would seem that, if we cannot keep all the manuscripts in this country, we should at least keep copies for the benefit of our own scholars. That is what we would all like. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that there are limits in a capitalist society to what one can do with private property in the lifetime of those who own the manuscripts. There are many different complications.

Mr. Whitaker

Would the right hon. Lady also consider the proposals of the Cottesloe Committee for a fund to safeguard the export of works of art?

Miss Lee

Once again, we must draw a sensible division, as I have said several times, between maintaining London as a great international centre, and our desire to keep British treasures in our own country.