HC Deb 05 March 1970 vol 797 cc610-1
27. Mr. Worsley

asked the Secretary of State far Education and Science whether he accepts the recommendation of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art that a special fund should be set up to finance the retention of works of art in this country.

Miss Jennie Lee

The Government take the view that this problem is still best dealt with through annual purchase grants to the national institutions supported, if necessary, by special purchase grants in exceptional cases. Subject to Parliamentary approval of the Estimates, the total annual purchase grants for the national institutions during the quin-quennium 1970–71 to 1974–75 will be £2 million. This is double the total for the current financial year. It is also proposed for 1970–71 to raise the level of the grant fund administered by the Victoria and Albert Museum for purchases by local institutions in England and Wales to £150,000—an increase of £50,000 over the current year.

Mr. Worsley

But would not the right hon. Lady agree that, in practice, this is a very complex and cumbrous way of dealing with the problem and that it causes difficulties? Will she look at this again?

Miss Lee

I have looked at this very carefully, and I do not think that one can set aside vast sums which are exempt from any consideration at all. We have done remarkably well. We have doubled the grants and we have increased the funds of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Treasury listens with great sympathy when we put in for a Supplementary Estimate, as does the House when it comes before the House. I am convinced that this is the practical way of dealing with the matter.