HC Deb 24 July 1973 vol 860 cc1395-7
19. Mr. Strauss

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she can now state what action she proposes to take on the recommendations contained in her departmental report on provincial museums and galleries.

44. Mr. Faulds

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action she intends to take following the publication of the report on provincial museums and galleries.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I would refer the right hon. and hon. Members to the answer given by my right hon. Friend on 28th June in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke). My noble Friend has sent the hon. Members copies of his speech to the Museum Association conference in Dundee on 13th July.

Mr. Strauss

I appreciate that the Minister is increasing the purchase grant for the provincial museums and galleries, but does he not realise that their out- standing need is money with which to improve the wholly inadequate accommodation in which the present exhibits are shown? In view of the recent resolution passed by the Museums Association deploring in the strongest possible terms—those words were used —the rejection by the Minister of the Wright Committee's major recommendation that a fund should be established for the housing of the museums similar to the housing of the arts, will he rapidly reconsider his regrettable decision?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I know that the right hon. Gentleman's disappointment is shared by a number of people, but to set up such a fund at a time of cutback in general Government capital investment would be merely to stimulate demands which could not be met and which would, therefore, increase frustration. I am happy to say that the Government are prepared to consider, together with local authorities, whether some form of central Government assistance within the arts programme would be justified in special cases of more than local significance. I hope that this will go some way towards meeting the point made by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Crouch

May I remind my right hon. Friend that there are many of us who are particularly interested in pianos and organs? Could he pull out a few more stops and endeavour to rehouse the British Piano Museum at the David Salomans House, about which I have written?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I share my hon. Friend's interest in those instrument, as I play both of them myself. However, the responsibility for David Salomans House lies with the Department of Health and Social Security and not my Department.

Mr. Faulds

I thank the hon. Gentleman for salvaging my Question from the end of the Order Paper. As it is known that the committee, with the exception of the two departmental members, was unanimously in favour of a mandatory rate, will he get his right hon. Friend to carefully consider this proposal—

Mr. Fell

Carefully to consider.

Mr. Faulds

To carefully consider—I will use my own words; we need no training from whippersnappers—because, contrary to the Paymaster-General's assertion, this does not involve centralised control?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

If I may intervene in this grammatical seminar, my noble Friend the Paymaster-General attaches the greatest importance to voluntary local effort and believes that a mandatory rate would not be appropriate but that we should encourage local authorities to fulfil their responsibilities in this respect.