HC Deb 19 November 1970 vol 806 cc1417-9
25. Mr. Strauss

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether the anticipated revenues of £1 million from the imposition of entrance fees to museums and galleries will be used to provide additional funds for the improvement of their facilities and the purchase of exhibits.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The revenue from entrance fees will increase the resources from which all public services, including the museums and galleries, are defrayed.

Mr. Strauss

Does not that mean that this will be a tax like any other Revenue tax, and that the amount of money available to the museums and galleries in future will in no way be related to the amount brought in by this tax?

Mr. van Straubenzee

It means that the Government are following the normal practice, that any particular sum collected is not necessarily applied to a particular object.

Mr. Faulds


Mr. Faulds

I am grateful for that susurrus of support, which seemed to my ears to emanate from all parts of the House. I trust that it will continue.

Has the Minister seen the strictures of Mr. Hugh Leggatt on this penny-pinching scheme of the Government's? Bearing in mind that he is a distinguished art dealer who has loaned and given many paintings to various of the national collections and now threatens to withdraw them, perhaps the Minister will listen to the advice of those who know rather more about these matters than he does?

Hon. Members


Mr. van Straubenzee

I readily acknowledge that I know much less about artistic matters than Mr. Leggatt. I gladly say that. But I apologise because, first, on behalf of the whole House, I should have welcomed the hon. Gentleman in his new important tasks. I hope that he will not cencentrate unduly on the theatre.

It is worth reflecting that Mr. Leggatt would not have been able to make these generous loans to any of the municipal galleries which already charge for admission.

Mr. Charles Morrison

Whilst supporting the general principle of charges to museums, may I ask whether my hon. Friend agrees that the application of funds from receipts at any particular museum would give an incentive to those who manage it to improve the facilities?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I follow my hon. Friend's argument. I hope that he will accept, however, the difficulty of specifically allocating to a specific object charges raised in a particular way.

26. Mr. Strauss

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science which museums and galleries are to impose entrance fees; who will decide the amount of such fees; and what exemptions from payment will be made.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply of 11th November to the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg) for a list of museums and galleries concerned. The institutions are being asked to give their views about the amount of the fees to be charged and which categories of visitors should be exempted.—[Vol. 806, c. 199–200.]

Mr. Strauss

In pursuing this matter, will the Minister bear in mind that all who are anxious to make the arts more accessible to the people endorse the verdict of The Guardian of 3rd November when it said that "to end Britain's long and honourable tradition of free admission to its arts and galleries is mean and philistine"?

Mr. van. Straubenzee

I acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman has played a distinguished part in this sphere. It must be accepted that there are differences of view. But I gladly take this opportunity to say clearly, with the full authority of my noble Friend, that reports appearing in this morning's Press are totally without foundation.

Mr. Leonard

Will the Minister give a categorical assurance that in no circumstances will charges for admission be made to scholars using the reading room at the British Museum?

Mr. van Straubenzee

That is the kind of point on which the institutions are now being asked to give their views.

Mr. Dykes

Does the Minister also agree, in relation to previous answers, that a principle of reduced charges may be considered, as well as exemptions, bearing in mind that there is good evidence in the rest of the world that with charges museum attendances have also gone up?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. That is the kind of consideration which is now being inquired into.