HC Deb 02 March 1976 vol 906 cc1088-9
20. Mr. Graham

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress is being made in acquiring the plaque by Donatello for the nation.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Hugh Jenkins)

I am pleased to say that the purchase has been completed, half the cost having been met from non-Government sources, I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the effort made by the Victoria and Albert Museum to achieve this satisfactory result and of the generosity of the National Art Collections Fund, the Pilgrim Trust, the Wolfson Foundation, Christies, the Italian Community in London, and many other private benefactors.

Mr. Graham

In the light of that reply, will my hon. Friend reveal the amount contributed from public sources through the funds of the Victoria and Albert?

Mr. Jenkins

Half the purchase price—£94,000—was found from Government sources. The other half was secured from private benefactors and it was not therefore necessary for the Government to add any further sum to the amount collected. Fortunately, the response was very good. I must re-emphasise my appreciation of the many sources from which the money was derived.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

We agree that credit is due to the director of the Victoria and Albert, to the National Art Collection Fund and to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke) for saving this treasure for the nation. The only person to whom no credit is due is the Minister himself, who is charged with the responsibility of protecting our national heritage but who refused to intervene to help save this treasure for the nation.

Mr. Jenkins

The hon. Member is not as ignorant as he pretends. He knows full well—or he should—that the rôle of public money in this matter is first to provide priming money. Secondly, the public benefactors can then come in. The Government rôle is then to find any end money that is necessary. In this case, fortunately, owing to the generosity of private benefactors, it was unnecessary for the Government to find anything beyond the original sum.