HC Deb 15 March 1977 vol 928 cc204-5
12. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what further representations she has received concerning the circulation of national collections in the future.

Miss Margaret Jackson

Since my right hon. Friend's statement in reply to my right hon. Friend, the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) on 10th February 1977, representations have been received from about 20 hon. Members, seven local authorities or their organisations, one area museum council and two national organisations.

Mr. Hannam

Does the hon. Lady accept that the closure of the V and A Regional Services Department goes totally against the V and A's original charter, which was established to take our art treasures from London into the provinces? Why were there no consultations with the Museums Association? Will the result of this decision not be the breaking up of many valuable art collections that were donated by individuals in trust for this purpose?

Miss Jackson

No, I do not think that that will be so. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not realise that about 90 per cent. of the circulating material will be available and we hope to have a new scheme enabling us to borrow from all national collections. Although this Department is being closed we do not feel that this will be the end of local museums receiving help. The hon. Gentleman will know that my noble Friend Lord Donaldson plans to hold a conference with the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries, at which it will be possible for these issues to be raised and further discussed.

Mr. Heffer

Will my hon. Friend outline the alternatives that would allow art collections to go round the country? The closure of this Department could be a most regrettable step, as in many cases local authorities have relied totally upon it. It would be very bad for young people in the provinces not to be able to have the benefit of seeing these collections.

Miss Jackson

That would be true if it were the case. Perhaps my hon. Friend does not realise that although we are proposing to make changes we are not proposing to abolish the scheme altogether. We hope that some of the changes will improve the situation. I have already told the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) that 90 per cent. of the circulating material will continue to be on offer. The previous scheme referred only to the Victoria and Albert, whereas this scheme will refer to all national collections. A matter that we think will be of particular assistance is the proposal for a Government indemnity for the insurance of objects being borrowed. That will have the effect of making local authorities much more willing to borrow, as well as making it easier for them to continue to borrow on an extensive scale.