HC Deb 26 May 1971 vol 818 cc367-8
26. Mr. Alexander Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will grant exemption from paying admission charges to museums for students, all pensioners and persons below 16 years of age.

Mr. Edward Taylor

The proposals contained in the White Paper "Future Policy for Museums and Galleries", which are still to be discussed with the Trustees of the National Institutions, include provision for exemptions for organised educational parties, library readers, and scholars and students on prearranged visits. No other exemptions for particular categories of visitor are proposed.

Mr. Wilson

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply. Is he aware, however, that the money to be raised by these charges is so low in total that it is not worth imposing the charges in the first place? Is he further aware of the detrimental effect the charges could have on students in their research projects? Is he further aware of the loss of culture which could otherwise have been obtained by the under-16 age group? Is he further aware of the loss of interest and recreational facilities to the pensioners in Scotland and elsewhere in Britain as a result of the charges? Will he reconsider the whole project and not introduce charges at all?

Mr. Taylor

The estimated income is not insignificant. It is, for Great Britain as a whole, £1,300,000, less 10 per cent. for administrative costs. The White Paper points out that for scholars and students prearranged visits should be allowable for exemption.

Mr. Buchan

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this attack on the old and the young is one of the meanest of all the mean measures produced by this meanest of all Governments? Is it not characteristic of the Government that they equate the arts with cash and call the man in charge of the arts the "Paymaster-General"?

Mr. Taylor

As usual, the hon. Gentleman is being quite ridiculous. The Government have a record of concern for the elderly of which we can be proud. When did the hon. Gentleman's Government raise pensions by £1 a week?