HC Deb 30 March 1981 vol 2 cc15-6
19. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what future support he plans for provincial museums.

24. Mr. Hooson

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the progress of his consideration of ways of developing the role of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries to make the best use of available resources for museums.

Mr. Channon

In the past the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries has made an important contribution to the welfare of provincial museums. I am now considering how best this can be continued and improved. As I told the House in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) on 2 March, I hope to make a statement later in the year.

Mr. Jessel

While we all recognise the value and importance of provincial museums, what can be done, in view of the current shortage of money, to improve the efficiency of their administration?

Mr. Channon

There has been a whole number of suggestions, of which my hon. Friend will be aware, some of which were canvassed in the Drew report last year. Jam studying all those suggestions in the hope that we can make progress and that I shall be able to make a statement to the House in the not too distant future.

Mr. Hooson

When carrying out that study, will my right hon. Friend also look at the possibility of slightly more selective expenditure in support of regional museums?

Mr. Channon

I shall look at that, but I suspect that there are many minefields along that route. Everyone thinks that his own local museum is the best.

Mr. Blackburn

Hear, hear.

Mr. Channon

I had better not be too selective.

Mr. Faulds

Is it not a fact that £400,000 was underspent by provincial museums in 1979–80 because of the inflexibility of the rules and the absence of any established procedure for appeal to the Minister? Will the right hon. Gentleman give his personal consideration to that important problem, because he might bring about a remedy?

Mr. Channon

The hon. Gentleman is not quite accurate. If he is talking about purchases by purchase grants administered by the V and A and the Science museum, there is a good use for those funds. Of course, I am looking at that issue in my consideration of all these matters.

Mr. Cormack

Will my right hon. Friend not pay too much attention to the injunction of my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Hooson)? Will he accept that in museums and arts a little money goes a very long way and that museums are among our foremost tourist attractions? What facilities has my right hon. Friend for arguing priorites with his colleagues in the Cabinet and elsewhere, bearing in mind that in my constituency alone one stretch of motorway will cost almost as much as the entire Arts Council budget for a year?

Mr. Channon

I have the same facilities as any of my colleagues. One of the things that helps me in fighting for the arts is the robust support of my hon. Friend and many other colleagues. I am sure that, with their assistance, I shall be able to continue my support for the arts. I agree with my hon. Friend that local museums are among our most precious assets and I shall do what I can to help them.

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