HC Deb 16 January 1989 vol 145 cc16-7
100. Mr. Atkinson

To ask the Minister for the Arts if he will make a statement on the future of the facsimile department of the British museum.

Mr. Luce

The day-to-day running of the British museum and decisions on the future of the facsimile department are matters for the director and trustees of the British museum.

Mr. Atkinson

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the British museum has one of the most valuable collection of original moulds for the making of plaster casts of the most celebrated statues in the world? Does he agree that there is a worldwide potential for a casting service and is he satisfied that it is profitable? If it is not, will he privatise it?

Mr. Luce

I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of the service that has been offered in the past by the British museum. At the moment the British museum faces certain pressures and problems, as a result of which the trustees are now considering the future of the department and how it should operate. I know that privatisation is one very serious proposition that the trustees are considering.

Mr. Allen

Does the Minister recognise that the facsimile department may be much overused, because if he does not act quickly on the recommendations in the Public Accounts Committee report many of our great treasures will fall apart? Will he give a guarantee now that the three-year programme that he has introduced will meet all the points that were noted in the Public Accounts report?

Mr. Luce

Of course I attach importance to what is said in the report and the House will look forward to the Government's reply. In the meantime, I believe that I have already demonstrated the importance that I attach to this problem. I have said that in the new third year, 1991–92, I shall be increasing resources to museums and galleries by £13 million—in addition to the overall increases that I am giving now—to give particular priority to the conservation and maintenance of their buildings.

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