HC Deb 16 May 1972 vol 837 cc232-3
Q1. Mr. John Smith

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the arrangements for co-ordination between the Department of Education and Science, and the Scottish Office on policy towards national museums and galleries; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Smith

Does the Prime Minister not recognise that while the policy of imposing charges for entrance to museums and galleries is particularly silly for the United Kingdom as a whole, it is ludicrous for Scotland? Is he aware that for the National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh the cost of collection will be 45 per cent. of the estimated intake? Is he further aware that for two of the galleries the total amount coming in is only £3,000 a year net? Is this not a nonsense?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman's figures are calculated on the basis of last year which was a particularly low year for admissions to these Scottish galleries. If the hon. Gentleman wants to reach a fair conclusion he should look at the figures over a longer period than that year. In any case, the charges for the galleries will help to provide for their expansion and development, and in this Scotland is benefiting in particular.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is rumoured that the Museums Bill is as dead as Tutankhamun? Could he confirm whether that is true?

The Prime Minister

The remaining stages of the Bill will be taken as soon as it is possible. As the House knows, at this time of the year, with the pressure of the Finance Bill and, in particular, with the European Communities Bill, it has not been possible to take the remaining stages as early as would normally be the case, but they will be fitted into,the programme at an appropriate moment.

Mr. Harold Wilson

The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) has anticipated my question. I was about to ask the Prime Minister on what date the Government will announce, even after the Finance Bill and other Measures, the withdrawal of this Measure from the House of Commons?

The Prime Minister

The Leader of the House will announce the day on which the remaining stages will be taken; and will do so on the Thursday of the week before that in which they are taken.

Mr. Thorpe

Since the Government always wish to be in touch with public opinion, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware how much pleasure this rumour has given, namely that the Bill is likely to be dropped? In view of the reference to Tutankhamun, if this Bill is likely to be dropped may we take it that the queue of other Bills likely to be dropped is as long as that forming outside the British Museum? If so, which Bills have the Government in mind?

The Prime Minister

I am sorry to disappoint the right hon. Gentleman. He and his colleagues will be asked to be in the House to deal with the rest of the Government's legislative programme—if they so wish. I must disagree with his general view of public opinion. I do not find that public opinion expresses the hostility to these charges which is expressed by certain people who are connected with museums and galleries. In any case, is it not extraordinary that people should be prepared to pay 50p to look at special exhibitions in so many of our galleries throughout the country and yet it is said they will object to paying 10p to see the galleries themselves? I do not believe that for one moment.