HC Deb 21 December 1972 vol 848 cc1556-7
11. Mr. Strauss

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will consult the trustees of the National Museums and Galleries about the most suitable date for imposing entrance charges after the end of the freeze.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

No, Sir, but the trustees will of course be given the longest possible notice of the date to enable them to make the necessary arrangements.

Mr. Strauss

Is the Under-Secretary aware that the Trustees of the British Museum have recently, if belatedly, declared their strong opposition to the imposition of these charges? Now the trustees of all the national museums and galleries in the British Isles have shown their opposition to this Philistine policy and, as they would plainly like to see an indefinite postponement of the implementation of this policy, does not the Under-Secretary, who is a civilised and cultured person, agree that they are right?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am grateful for that tribute of being civilised and cultured, as indeed is the right hon. Gentleman. Regarding the policy issues, I am afraid that these were settled with the passing of the Museums and Galleries Admission Charges Act, and this is the law of the land.

Mr. Faulds

Since the hon. Gentleman's welcome accession to office, on this universally deplored measure which I cannot believe he supports, why has he not talked some sense—he is a greater talker, after all—into the thick skulls of his two departmental bosses, that disposable Lord in the other place and that lamentable Lady here.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Those remarks by the hon. Gentleman were neither cultured nor civilised. I should like him to get this matter in perspective and to consider the question of charges in the context of the record amount of money that my noble Friend Lord Eccles has obtained for the arts, including £6 million only yesterday for the expanded Covent Garden site, which will give him a claim to be considered the modern Maecenas of our age.

Mr. William Hannan

If the hon. Gentleman must have a date, may I suggest 30th February 1973, and the same date in any succeeding year?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I take note of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, which will be noted in the Department.