HC Deb 16 July 1984 vol 64 cc15-6
25. Sir David Price

asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts what help the Government intend to give to the trustees of the Victoria and Albert museum to deal with the state of physical deterioration in the museum's buildings.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. William Waldegrave)

The Victoria and Albert museum is receving a substantial share of the resources for the national museums' and galleries' building and maintenance programme in the current year. Provision for future years is being reviewed as part of the 1984 public expenditure survey.

Sir David Price

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the present state of repair of the Victoria and Albert building has been classified by the Property Services Agency as desperate, that it will cost more than £25 million to put right and that, under the present financing arrangements, there is no way in which the trustees can raise that money without generous help from the taxpayer?

Mr. Waldegrave

There is no question but that the answer to the latter part of my hon. Friend's question is yes — the taxpayer will have to help in this matter. Recently, the chairman of the trustees and the trustees met my right hon. and learned Friend the Chief Secretary. I know that the trustees are putting figures of £25 million or £26 million on the cost of what needs to be done. The seriousness of the position is well known to my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for the Arts.

Mr. Tony Banks

It is well known that the Victoria and Albert museum trustees wish to impose some form of charges for admission to the museum. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the British museum is actively considering admission charges? What sort of early warning mechanism is the Office of Arts and Libraries operating whereby it can say exactly which museums and art galleries are proposing to impose charges?

Mr. Waldegrave

It is entirely up to the trustees of particular museums to come forward with schemes, if they choose to do so.

Mr. Buchan

Does the Under-Secretary of State not realise that to a large extent those museums have been given the green light by the Office of the Minister for the Arts? Does the hon. Gentleman recall that the last time the Government tried to impose charges they were clobbered? That was done under the present Prime Minister. Will the hon. Gentleman remind the Prime Minister that we will not tolerate a retreat to private enterprise on this issue?

Mr. Waldegrave

The policy has been the same for a number of years — if the trustees of collections have wanted to come forward with schemes, my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for the Arts and his predecessors have agreed to look at the proposals.

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