HC Deb 17 July 1989 vol 157 cc13-4
30. Mr. Mans

To ask the Minister for the Arts what improvements have been made to the Imperial War museum in the last 12 months.

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Richard Luce)

On 29 June I attended the opening by Her Majesty the Queen of a substantial redevelopment of the Imperial War museum's main building.

This impressive project has significantly increased the museum's gallery space and is an excellent example of the many imaginative developments both under way and in planning at the national museums and galleries.

Mr. Mans

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that that project is an excellent example of co-operation between the public and private sector? Will he take this opportunity to congratulate the staff and the director of the museum on the recent refurbishment work and the way in which they carried it out?

Mr. Luce

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I certainly join him in congratulating the director and staff on a remarkable achievement. It is interesting to note that that redevelopment cost £16.7 million altogether. The Government contributed just over £12 million and the rest came from the private sector. The project is a fine example of joint funding by the public and the private sector.

Mr. Robert Sheldon

While welcoming the improvements in the Imperial War museum, will the right hon. Gentleman turn his attention to those other museums which, in the words of the Public Accounts Committee which took evidence on this matter in October last year, have faced a major breakdown over many years in the proper stewardship of major national assets"? Museums are a striking example of failure to deal with the problem of inflation as well as the problem of lack of repair work over many years. The problems that we are now facing at the Victoria and Albert museum and other major national institutions must be dealt with properly and can be dealt with only by the injection of substantial sums of money.

Mr. Luce

That is exactly why, over the four years beginning 1987–88, I took the decision to increase by 53 per cent. the amount of money available for building and maintenance. The money allocated for building and maintenance this year will amount to £48 million, rising to £55 million by 1991. The right hon. Gentleman knows that there is three-year funding, but I have retained a certain flexibility in relation to building and maintenance so that in years two and three I can respond to the particular demands of particular institutions. I naturally attach great importance to the maintenance of such buildings.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the Imperial War museum is bound by national agreements on pay and staffing levels and what effect that has upon that and other museums? Is it right to straitjacket museums in that way? Should they not make their own arrangements on pay and staffing levels as they see fit?

Mr. Luce

My hon. Friend has raised an important point. Since 1963, all the main national institutions have been linked to Civil Service pay and conditions, but some of the national institutions are looking for new ways in which to approach this problem and are coming forward with ideas. I believe that the main way forward must be more flexible pay arrangements for each institution. Museums are free to operate such a scheme under present arrangements and there is nothing to stop them moving forward in that direction.

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