§ Order for Second Reading read.4.11 pm
§ The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Tim Renton)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This has been a great year for the national museums and galleries funded by my office, an annus mirabilis which comes after a period of substantial change in which trustees, new directors, curators, warders and staff have accepted the challenge to present their collections to the public in a way that invites scholars and pedagogues to continue their studies within their walls and, most important, excites the public and encourages, tempts and invites the pensioner, parent and child to spend a Saturday afternoon there rather than go to the cinema or football match. I commend the trustees, directors and museum staff for rising to the new age.
Museums and galleries are in a challenging business. They compete with libraries, theme parks, historic homes and even sports grounds as places where education, scholarship and entertainment must mix, where new visions are displayed and new horizons opened up.
That message was true in late Victorian times when galleries were being built by public subscription and private patronage to show pictures to the public for the first time, and when the great range of museums was built in South Kensington, Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool and Edinburgh, to name but a few. An afternoon out then was often an afternoon at the museum or art gallery.
That message was somewhat lost in the 1960s and 1970s. It is now again a vital part of the approach of the professional director and his or her increasingly well-trained team. It is an approach that has been enormously encouraged by the many initiatives taken by my well-respected predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Sir R. Luce), and myself.
To name but a few of those initiatives there is the funding of the Museums Training Institute which was established by my right hon. Friend in order to develop agreed occupational standards and qualifications for the museum sector. We give grant in aid to the Museums and Galleries Commission, which, among other things, administers the museum registration scheme which sets basic common standards for all sizes and types of museums. It also provides money for the area museum councils, which in turn give advice to non-national local museums on improving their collections and services to the public. I take the opportunity provided by this rare debate on museums and galleries to thank all those working in those different institutes, commissions and councils.
The Bill is especially concerned with four leading institutions funded directly by my office—the national gallery, Tate gallery, national portrait gallery, and Wallace collection.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
Before the Minister describes his Bill, I refer to his grandiloquent statement that this has been an annus mirabilis for museums. What has been so special about this year, and what has the Minister done in respect of the obvious difficulty confronted by museums in finding sufficient funds to enter the market to buy new works of 990 art, and to meet Lord Palumbo's target for the fabric of museums? The steps taken seem rather tiny, and the Minister's claim may be thought inflated.
§ Mr. Renton
As the hon. Gentleman represents a Scottish constituency, he will know—although this is not one of my responsibilities—that during this year, the national museum of Scotland in Edinburgh will award the design for the extension to its great building. I understand that it is already making a public appeal and seeking funds from the Scottish Office. That is a good example in the hon. Gentleman's home country. As to the rest, the hon. Gentleman anticipates my speech. I will talk about some specific successes in national museums and galleries in the part of my speech that I am about to reach.
The first of the four of my client institutions is the national gallery. Right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House know that Her Majesty the Queen graciously opened its new Sainsbury wing in 1991. Anyone who was present on that occasion, or who has visited the wing since, will agree that it establishes a superb background against which the gallery's quattrocento and cinquecento paintings can be hung.
The wing was made possible entirely by the generous gifts of the three brothers John, Simon, and Tim Sainsbury—the latter otherwise known to us as the right hon. Member for Hove. Rightly and properly, they have been described as modern Medicis for their generosity in making that wing available. I have no doubt that the Medicis would warmly approve the background against which the beautiful pietà Serena and other early renaissance pictures are now hung.
There have also been several gallery refurbishments, helped by individual sponsorship—notably that of Mr. Wohl; Agnew; the former American ambassador, Mr. Annenberg; and Hazlitt, Gooden and Fox—whose refurbished galleries I was pleased to visit just the other day.
I have been able to allocate an extra £500,000 for roof and services work, in addition to the substantial other sums made available by my office to the national gallery. You, Mr. Speaker, would not want me to leave the subject of that gallery without referring to the outstanding exhibition of more than 70 paintings from Heinz Berggruen's internationally famous private collection. I congratulate the gallery's retired chairman, Lord Rothschild, and its director, Neil MacGregor, on their skill in persuading Heinz Berggruen to lend those great pictures for at least five years.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
While we are all deeply grateful to these fat cats for all the money that they have put into the arts, can the Minister tell us whether they enjoy any tax breaks for being so munificent with the money that they have garnered in the check-outs of the supermarkets that they run?
Mr. David Enwright (Hemsworth)
§ Mr. Renton
I am sure that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), who follows these matters closely and who probably does some of his shopping at these supermarkets, even on Sunday—
§ Mr. Renton
—will know that these generous donations were made from the extensive number of charitable trusts formed by members of the Sainsbury family in recent years, which have helped many an institution, not just the national gallery.
Next on my list is the Tate gallery. Apart from many improvements at Millbank itself, in the past two years the Tate has spread its wings into more distant parts of the country. In 1988 the Tate gallery Liverpool was opened, thus helping the process of regeneration around the Albert dock in Liverpool. This follows the Government's policy of increasing public access to the nation's collections. I congratulate the trustees of the Tate on the vigorous programme of displays at Liverpool which has made the Tate's 20th century art available to a new regional audience.
This year the Tate gallery in St. Ives is being built. I have given the Tate an extra £100,000 to help begin operations there. Extra Government money—
§ Mr. Renton
On behalf of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West. I had him particularly in mind, knowing his interest in the St. Ives school of painting. Extra Government money has been allocated for refurbishment work at Millbank.
§ Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
While the Minister takes credit for his Government's involvement in the excellent Tate in Liverpool, will he explain to the House and to those who admire this gallery why, when the Tate applied to him last November for an additional £600,000 to continue its work at the Tate in the north, he provided only £300,000?
§ Mr. Renton
Even the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher), with his known ability to scatter taxpayers' money here, there and everywhere regardless of consequences in cost, will have been told by his sources that I gave the Tate half the requested sum,£ 300,000, and urged it to use its own best housekeeping endeavours to ensure that sufficient of the remainder could be found in order to make certain that the Tate in Liverpool remains fully open. I understand that this is the course of action that the director and trustees are likely to follow. So prudence allied with generosity is likely to have an appropriate reward.
At Millbank we have seen excellent special exhibitions in the past few months: Constable sponsored by Barclays bank; an exhibition of Sir Anthony Caro's sculptures, sponsored by KPMG; and next week the third version of "New Displays", sponsored by British Petroleum, which enables the Tate to rotate works from its collection for display. I am delighted that the extensive gallery, which has been refurbished thanks to the generosity of Nomura, is now complete and is likely to open shortly.
As to the national portrait gallery, with Government support and encouragement it has embarked on a gallery development plan that will increase exhibition space by 37 per cent. We provided additional buildings on Orange street behind the gallery, together with £3.5 million towards the plan. The gallery has a successful appeal under way and has held some notable exhibitions such as "The Portrait in British Art", sponsored by Enterprise Oil.
I mention these sponsors to show the House the wide variety of British businesses which are now prepared to 992 work hand in hand with the Government, with the funds made available by the Office of Arts and Libraries, because they see that sponsorship of the arts falls increasingly within the practice and objects of their companies and helps to promote their corporate image, as well as being extremely helpful to the art institute involved. That is why we have seen over the past 15 years business sponsorship of the arts grow from barely £500,000 in the mid-1970s to well over £40 million now.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
I have been a member of the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts almost since the outset. We produced a major report on public and private funding of the arts, and it was obvious to every member of the Committee and everyone who read the report just how important public money was. Without public money, the arts could hardly exist.
While preparing our report on charges for entrance to galleries and museums, we visited the Louvre. That was the only subject, in the history of the Select Committee, on which the Opposition chose to produce a minority report. Lord Rothschild, of the national gallery, and Neil MacGregor were both opposed to the Government's view: neither wanted charges. The Victoria and Albert museum told us that the money that it received from the Government was not even sufficient to deal with the fabric of the museum, and that it was deeply worried.
Will the Minister please stop being so lyrical? Much as we want sponsorship, it is quite insufficient to deal with the problems, as is the money from the Government.
§ Mr. Renton
Of course public funding plays a part. That is why I was delighted to inform the House, only a few weeks ago, that, for the third year running my Department had been able to give the Arts Council a record increase. That shows the Government's commitment to supporting the arts. In the year ahead, the Arts Council will receive a 14 per cent. increase—an extra £27 million.
I shall deal with the question of charging later in my speech, and if the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) wants to ask any further questions after that he is welcome to do so. I was interested to learn that the Select Committee had visited the Louvre. The Louvre charges for entrance and, having used the money to fund an expensive capital expansion programme, it is now in the process of tripling the number of admissions. It is not the charge that puts people off visiting a gallery or museum; they are put off if a collection is not interestingly displayed. The Louvre's is a perfect example of a charging policy that works.
§ Mr. Renton
I suggest that the hon. Gentleman returns to this point when I have made my own specific comments. He has said that he has to go to a meeting.
§ Mr. Flannery
We visited the Louvre precisely because it charged for entrance. It has charged ever since the introduction of the Napoleonic code, and it is therefore impossible to compare France with other countries in which charges have never been imposed.
Sir Robert Peel said that the purpose of the national gallery was to allow people who could not afford to put pictures on their walls to look at them free of charge—and he was a noble Tory, to say the least. When, for instance, 993 the national museum of Wales introduced charges, admissions fell by 80 per cent. When charges are introduced, the people who have no art in their houses are the ones who stop visiting galleries. That is what the Government have done.
§ Mr. Renton
I now regret giving way to the hon. Gentleman again. He has simply repeated his earlier points. The Prado in Madrid charges; so does the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Very few national museums do not.
§ Mr. Renton
I have given the hon. Gentleman two bites at the cherry. He should now listen to the answer. By charging, and by turning from direct vote to grant in aid, we have enabled museums and galleries to decide to charge if they wish. It is their decision, not ours. We do not insist that, for instance, the Victoria and Albert museum charge for entrance. That is up to the trustees, who may decide that charging would provide additional revenue with which they could mount special collections and special exhibitions from all over the world. That decision was taken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham and, as I shall demonstrate in a few moments, it has been very well justified by the results.
It is with the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman that I say that he should take his head out of the sand and look around the world to see what is happening in all the leading museums and galleries.
The Wallace collection is, of course, unique. As hon. Members will know, it is a remarkable collection of 18th-century paintings and furniture, put together at a time when, perhaps, British collecting was at its height, and given to the nation through the generosity of the Hertford family. The largest room there must be one of the finest galleries in the world. I am delighted that the collection is in such good shape. Recent repairs to the roof were carried out with Government support.
Having spoken of the four particular museums and galleries that are covered by the Bill, I think with very great pleasure of the many visits that I have made over the past year to other museums and galleries—national, local and independent—throughout the country. In almost all cases I was much impressed by the vigour and the enterprising spirit with which the collections are being shown off. In this manner the museums and galleries are seeking to attract a larger proportion of people who are looking for things to do outside their homes.
The Liberal spokesman—the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan)—asked about the refurbishment of national museum and gallery buildings. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that refurbishment is proceeding very well. Nearly £200 million of Government money will be spent on it over the next three years. It is not simply a matter of throwing money at the work to be done; we assess very carefully the forward building programmes. I should like to make special mention of the excellent progress that is being made with the refurbishment of Sir John Soane's museum, which I sponsor. This funding is provided jointly with MEPC plc. There is also the full refurbishment of the south-west wing of the national maritime museum, which is entirely Government funded.
Help is being given very widely through the museums and galleries improvement fund, which we fund jointly 994 with very generous trusts from the Wolfson family. The amount has recently been increased to £20 million, in all, over the next five years, and it is now supporting more than 100 projects in museums up and down the country—in local museums such as the Herbert art gallery in Coventry, the Laing art gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne, the Tolson museum in Huddersfield, the Manchester city art gallery, the Colchester castle museum, and the museum of Dartmoor life in Okehampton.
In some measure the Bill consolidates the successes that I have mentioned. In a sense it is an accolade to the trustees, the directors and the staffs of the four galleries that are particularly concerned. The Bill is intended primarily to provide wide and explicit powers for the trustees of the national gallery, the Tate, the national portrait gallery and the Wallace collection in order that they may be able to discharge their heavy responsibilities in the modern world. Most decisions are now, rightly, being taken by the trustees and their staffs, especially in relation to building programmes since these were untied from the Property Services Agency in 1988.
Many large projects and contracts are involved, and it is therefore important that corporate status be provided as it is simply not right that trustees should be individually liable in respect of contracts. A consequence of incorporation is that it is necessary to spell out the new boards' powers and responsibilities explicitly, rather than, as hitherto, expect the boards to rely, for the most part, on the common law of trusteeship. I wish to ensure that, in doing this, we provide a framework in which the new boards of trustees will have the freedom and flexibility to run the galleries in the most beneficial way possible.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House will see that clause 2 maintains certain powers with regard to charging. In particular, it is in line with the Government's policy that trustees themselves should be able to decide whether to make a charge for admission. It sustains their present common law right to make such a charge. As we have just seen, the charging policy of museums and galleries excites much stronger feelings in the House, rather curiously, than it does among the institutions. Evidently the Opposition still take the high-minded attitude that this wicked policy has been imposed on museums and galleries by the Government. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central said that Labour would abolish charges on core collections.
§ Mr. Renton
No, not at the moment. I want to complete this section of my speech.
I say again that the Government do not impose the charges. It is up to each individual institution to decide whether to impose charges, whether for entry to specific exhibitions or generally, and whether to provide concessions for students, pensioners, the disabled and the unemployed. Even those museums and galleries that make a charge have generous arrangements for different categories of people. They provide free admission for pre-booked school parties and concessionary rates for other groups of visitors.
The institutions that charge have gained greatly from the proceeds raised. They do not go into the Government's coffers; they are used, together with the proceeds from the shop, cafe and sponsorship, for activities that the museums and galleries themselves choose. This additional revenue, 995 which amounted last year to £46 million in total, of which £7.3 million related to admission charges, has given each museum and gallery that has decided to charge greater freedom and independence to run its own affairs and to expand in the way that it particularly wants.
§ Mr. Renton
I have to say to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and also to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West, both of whom I see are trying to intervene, that for the Labour party to say publicly in its policy documents that it intends to take away that freedom is like turning the clock back to the days before perestroika was discovered. It is the attitude of backward cavemen who want to take the world back into the dark days because of their own myopia.
§ Mr. Fisher
The Minister referred to the benefits that he claims the museums gain, though he knows perfectly well that every single museum that imposes charges would prefer not to do so because it dislikes the reduced attendances that have resulted from the imposition of entrance charges. The Minister says that the museums and galleries have benefited. Why does not he ask the public, who elected both the right hon. Gentleman and his Government as well as all Opposition Members, how they have benefited from the very substantial fall in attendance? The national museum of Wales, we were told, saw a drop of 80 per cent. in attendance when it imposed charges. How does the Minister believe that the public in Wales benefited from charging for entrance to that museum?
§ Mr. Renton
After years as shadow Minister for the Arts, the hon. Gentleman shows an ignorance about the subject which appals me. No wonder there is talk that Melvyn Bragg is to become Lord Bragg and Minister for the Arts, if ever there were to be a Labour Government. I am astonished by the hon. Gentleman. Where has he been? Does he not know that, as a result of charging to enter the "Visions of Japan" exhibition, admissions to the V and A went up substantially? As the museum director said, putting on a special exhibition for which the museum imposed a charge attracted many more people into the V and A. If the hon. Gentleman does not know that, I fear that he is never going to get any further than his present job as shadow Minister for the Arts.
§ Mr. Renton
I shall give way once more to the hon. Gentleman. Then I must get on with the rest of my speech.
§ Mr. Banks
I put it to the Minister that he is being very combative and getting us all worked up, but the fact is that he has not answered the question that was put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher). An accusation of high-mindedness is one which I am quite prepared to bear because it was high-mindedness, in many ways, that set up the museums. They were established by people who were considerably more high-minded than the present Government. There is no argument on the Opposition side about charges being imposed for special exhibitions. That is perfectly acceptable. The Minister should not use that as a way of 996 trying to rebut the argument. However, when it comes to charging an entrance fee for general admission, no single museum, if given the choice, would impose a charge. Every museum knows, though, that it needs that money because the Government are not giving it the necessary funding.
§ Mr. Renton
I despair of Opposition Members who think that they know something about the subject, but in fact know nothing. The Tate and the national gallery have put on specific exhibitions for which they have charged—the Queen's pictures in the national gallery and the Constable collection in the Tate. They said that that brought additional people into the galleries. If the Labour party is stuck with the policy of the 1970s, I realise how much the arts will suffer if it is ever in a position to execute its policies. I am deeply destressed, as is most of the House, at the ignorance shown by Opposition Members.
In respect of disposals from collections, I have sought to honour the commitment given to the House in 1989 by my right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham that any relevant powers would, as far as possible, be tailor-made to meet the specific requirements of each institution for the optimum management of its collection. [Interruption.] I imagine that that wish might be shared even by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), who is speaking from a sedentary position. There is now a much greater willingness to explore other sources of funding to the benefit of the taxpayer. There is a greater emphasis on trading revenue, which was stimulated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham's revision of the financing arrangements for national museums and galleries in 1986 in which Government funding was changed from direct vote to grant in aid so that national museums and galleries would be able to retain their self-generated receipts without offsetting reductions in Government grant. Opposition Members should bear that in mind.
The overall purpose was to provide an opportunity for a larger growth in the total funding available to them than would otherwise be possible. My right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham undertook to put grant in aid on a regular legislative basis and that is what the Bill does. Hitherto, it has rested on the annual Appropriation Act. Before my right hon. Friend's far-sighted revision of the arrangements, the national museums and galleries trading receipts had to be surrendered and revoted to them. That was hardly an incentive mechanism and it has been set right in perpetuity by the Bill.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that I used to plague him with Adjournment debates on the natural history museum. I know that the powers of disposal for that museum are separate from what we are discussing today. However, since the subject has arisen again in what we read and from what we hear from those involved about the dire position of the South Kensington museum, is there anything that the Minister can say about those who work there and what the future holds for them?
§ Mr. Renton
I know of the hon. Gentleman's worries about the natural history museum. He has often spoken of them in the House to my predecessor and myself. The reorganisation of that museum is now well in place and it is benefiting from that. Curation has been strengthened and there is a more effective and efficient advisory service. The impressive ecology gallery has been opened and a new 997 dinosaur gallery is planned—[Interruption.] It is typical that the Opposition do not want to hear the facts. Attendance in 1991 was 1.5 million, which is a 2.8 per cent. increase over 1990. I have not been advised of any likely changes in the museum's disposal plans. If the hon. Gentleman has any specific detail about that, perhaps he will write to me. The matter is not covered by the Bill and I should make progress.
The Bill is broadly similar in structure and provisions to the National Heritage Act 1983 which put the V and A and science museum on a regular footing and the National Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985. Both those Acts, which had all-party support at the time, have stood the test of time and the Government have therefore chosen to follow a similar path on this occasion.
It has been recognised for some time that the present statutory basis of the four institutions is deficient. Their powers are often ill-defined and overly rigid in scope—it is impossible to open the Tate restaurant when the gallery is closed and there is no power to have a restaurant at the national portrait gallery. That leads to frustrating uncertainties about what may and may not be done by the trustees.
The national portrait gallery rests almost entirely on a Treasury minute of 1856. Although the Treasury minute is an excellent document, it may be out of date. The Tate gallery rests, for the most part, on the National Gallery and Tate Gallery Act 1954 which set up the Tate as a separate body and allowed for rationalisation of the collections, but provided little else. The Wallace derives a good part of its legal standing from a Treasury minute of 1897. Those and other instruments served their purpose in the beginnings of the galleries, but, in terms of present day requirements, they no longer provide a way forward.
The Bill falls into four main parts. The first part establishes new incorporated boards of trustees for the national gallery, Tate gallery, national portrait gallery and Wallace collection, deals with their general functions, constitutions and powers, including those to form companies, in three cases—not the Wallace—to acquire and dispose of pictures and other objects and to lend and borrow such objects.
The House will wish to know that, apart from being able to transfer pictures to other collections, I have taken the view that the national gallery should not be able to dispose of any work of art—other than by way of transfer to another specified collection—because the pictures in its collection are of established merit and significance. In addition, all the pictures are presently hung and it is logical to keep them together.
§ Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central)
The Minister has said on a number of occasions that the Bill deals primarily with the galleries for which his Department is responsible. It also deals with the national gallery of Scotland? Can he explain why the Bill provides for tight policies for disposal of works of art in respect of English galleries, but does not make the corresponding provisions for the national gallery of Scotland? If I catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope to demonstrate that that will place the national gallery of Scotland at a substantial disadvantage. No Scottish Office Minister has turned up today, but I wonder whether the Minister can deal with that matter, because it is of great concern to the trustees north of the border.
§ Mr. Renton
I am aware that the matter has been raised by the trustees, but no specific request has come to me.
§ Mr. Darling
The Minister has been using the pronoun a great deal today. I can assure him that the Scottish Office was made aware of the trustees' concern some months ago. It would appear that the Scottish Office has been grossly negligent if it has not told his Department, which I assume is primarily responsible for the drafting of the Bill, about that concern. Will the Minister check, before the end of the debate, whether his Department has any knowledge of the Scottish Office being contacted? If the Scottish Office did not even get in touch with his Department, the resentment north of the border will be substantial.
§ Mr. Renton
I recognise once again the hectoring and bullying manner that the hon. Gentleman adopted when we met for debates on immigration. I regret that it continues. I am aware that an approach was made to the Scottish Office. [Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) will allow me to finish. It did not come to my office as such, because the first view taken by the Scottish Office was that if such powers were given to the national gallery of Scotland they would render the Bill hybrid. That is the position now.
§ Mr. Fisher
The record will show that before giving way to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) the Minister said that the Bill gave powers to all three museums to dispose of works, apart from the Wallace collection. If he refers to the Bill, he will see that it does not give powers to the national gallery. I am surprised that he is not a master of the Bill that he is presenting. I am sure that he would not wish to mislead the House.
§ Mr. Renton
The hon. Gentleman either does not listen or does not read. I have taken the view that the national gallery should not be able to dispose of any work of art other than by way of transfer to another specified collection. That is what I said. If the hon. Gentleman listened more carefully and was not so keen to score party-political points, he might absorb the contents of the Bill more easily.
In keeping with the understanding entered into at the time of the Wallace collection passing to the nation, I propose that it should not be able to acquire or dispose of works of art and that it should remain a closed collection in the terms of the original bequest, which was to bekept together unmixt with other objects".The Tate and the national portrait galleries are rather different animals and I propose that they should be given limited powers of disposal. The reasoning for that is reflected in their collections.
The great majority of the Tate's collection—some 75 per cent.—cannot be hung at any one time. Its collections are also subject to much greater change as its function is to acquire the work largely of contemporary artists. If in the context of changing needs it needs to dispose occasionally of examples of works which overlap or are duplicated, it should have the right to do so. It can then use the resources released to add to the collection in any 999 manner that it wishes. I stress that the decision to dispose would be a matter for the trustees and the Government would play no part.
§ Mr. Renton
I intend to finish my speech. I have been on my feet for a long time and I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will be able to make his point.
Equally, the proceeds of the disposal would be freely used by it but only to acquire further works of art for its collections. I must also stress that this power in no way signals a Government wish to see a widespread disposal of the Tate's collections. It is a reserve power to be used occasionally and after full consideration by the trustees.
The Bill provides powers to the national portrait gallery to transfer objects and to dispose of duplicates but in its case I have added, at the trustees' request, a power to enable them—if they so wish—to dispose of portraits when the board is satisfied that the identification of the person portrayed has been discredited—this is to assist them in the proper management of their collection. Again, any money from disposals could be used by the board only to acquire further objects for the collection.
The second part of the Bill empowers these and other boards of trustees of specified museums, galleries and libraries—all of considerable standing—to transfer objects from their collections to other similarly specified institutions. For the most part, this is sustaining and expanding the transfer provisions of the National and Tate Gallery Act 1954 which the Bill would repeal. It also provides for gifts of works of art to the nation or for the public benefit to be vested in specified institutions and enables Crown land and buildings occupied by specified national museums, galleries and libraries to be transferred to their governing bodies notwithstanding any prohibition or restriction to the contrary. The latter provision is intended, within constraints, to facilitate the trustees to be given ownership of their particular estates, and the policy was announced in another place in 1989.
These transfers will place a further responsibility on the trustees—that of complying with planning law in respect of alterations to their listed buildings—because at the moment there is Crown exemption. I look to them to make the fullest use of these wonderful buildings as modern museums while preserving the buildings' historic character.
The third part provides for the payment of grant in aid to certain national museums. I have already mentioned this point and it is a tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham because he suggested the idea during his long term as Minister for the Arts. It provides for the payment of grant in aid to certain national museums, galleries and libraries and the Museums and Galleries Commission by the appropriate Minister out of money provided by Parliament, for the keeping of proper records and accounts and the examination and certification of those accounts by the Comptroller and Auditor General and for him to report on those accounts to Parliament.
Clause 10, which deals with indemnities at greater length, provides for designated institutions to give 1000 indemnities when borrowing objects for public exhibition or study and to provide for the financing of those indemnities.
Under current arrangements, indemnities for works of art loaned to our national museums and galleries are issued by the Office of Arts and Libraries and some other Government Departments, at the request and on the advice of their respective institutions. Senior national museum directors made representations to me last week that they wished the present arrangements to continue. In their representations, they have acknowledged the speed with which indemnities are issued by my office and the prompt advice given on tricky problems, especially indemnity applications from foreign lenders.
Clause 10 was drawn up following an undertaking by my right hon. Friend in response to previous representations to empower national museums and galleries to issue their own indemnities, but in the light of representations made to me at the end of last week, I intend to table an amendment at the Committee stage withdrawing clause 10 and substituting a new clause which will make technical improvements to the National Heritage Act 1980 in the matter of reporting liabilities and the need only to approve borrowers, not lenders.
The fourth part deals with minor and supplemental matters, but I would not wish the House to overlook the provision, at the request of the trustees, to change the name of the British museum (natural history) to the natural history museum by which it has come generally to be known, an important marker in its successful development as a separate body with an international reputation.
The board of trustees of the armouries was set up by the National Heritage Act 1983, but, unlike some bodies, was not then given the power to form companies. The Bill would give the board those powers, which are already enjoyed by similar bodies, and also allow it to make grants for appropriate purposes.
Other provisions of the Bill deal with particular Welsh institutions and certain provisions extend to Scotland and Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
My hon. Friend referred five minutes ago to the payment of grants. Will he take note of the fact that many of us on the Back Benches very much hope that the Government will introduce measures to make possible the creation of a national lottery which will throw up substantial funds for the refurbishment, repair and maintenance and construction of museum buildings in the national interest? Will he not only take note of that but convey it to the Government as a whole, in the hope that they will have a Bill ready on the stocks for early implementation in the very first Session of the new Parliament for our Governmnent to introduce?
§ Mr. Renton
To judge from that response, I think that my hon. Friend has a great deal of support in the House. If we were to add those provisions to the Bill, I fear that we might not fall within the long title of the Bill. However, I very much support and understand my hon. Friend's enthusiasm for a national lottery.
The time has come to build further on the foundations of the achievements of the trustees and professional staffs, the public's growing interest and the Government's 1001 profound commitment to the future of these great institutions. It is important to ensure that the trustees of the four galleries have the powers to underpin that future. The Bill does that and more, and I hope that it will be warmly received.
I found on my desk a little sticker which states "Vote for the Arts", issued by the National Campaign for the Arts. I have no doubt that by voting for the Bill and for the Conservatives' record of achievement the arts will prosper far more than they would under the dogmatic, doctrinaire, interfering and bureaucratic solutions proposed by Labour. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I think that the Minister has set a record in the House by making what was probably one of the longest Second Reading speeches for one of the shortest Bills. He entertained the House for 47 minutes. He gave way generously to many hon. Members—and I am sure that they appreciated it— but I suspect that we were hearing the Ministers swan song. I suspect that that was the last time that he will make a speech as Minister for the Arts, and I do not think that the House would begrudge him a longer time to say his farewells. He has not held the post very long but he has worked hard and the arts world has appreciated that.
§ Mr. Fisher
I thank my hon. Friend. However, it was a long swan song for a short Bill. I do not think that many hon. Members would criticise the length of the speech but they and members of the museum and arts worlds outside would criticise the Bill's contents.
We have heard 47 minutes of the most extraordinary self-congratulation and complacency that can have ever been heard. I do not believe that the museum world will recognise the picture of the Government's stewardship that the Minister sought to paint. He knows very well from the deputations of trustees and directors of national galleries and of galleries and museums around the country that they have been hugely critical of the Government's neglect. I do not understand how the Government can paint the picture that they have.
The real context of the Bill is more likely to be portrayed by the fact that last year the Tate gallery—one of the four galleries covered by the Bill—was able to purchase one picture on behalf of the nation. That is all that it could afford under this Government.
The Minister referred to the detail in the Bill, and that specifically charges the Tate gallery tocare for, preserve and add toits collection. Yet the Government's stewardship of the Tate has allowed it to add one picture last year. That is the background of neglect against which we must realise that the Bill is being introduced.
The Opposition undoubtedly welcome most of the Bill. Its provisions have been around for about three years, since the right hon. Member for Shoreham (Sir R. Luce) introduced measures and ideas along those lines. Almost all those provisions command bipartisan support. We welcome the fact that the Government have introduced the Bill, and we shall not oppose it.
However, as the Minister said, the Bill raises important questions about the structure and accountability of the four galleries concerned, about their finances and obligations, about their ability to trade and to acquire and 1002 dispose of works of art, and about their liabilities and indemnities in the event of any damage. The way in which the Government have handled those matters tells us much about their attitude to museums.
The Government probably have the worst record on looking after museums of any Government since the war. It could be said that they have abandoned whole areas of their responsibility to the national museums. The fact that the Minister started his speech by talking about an annus mirabilis will have been met with incredulity outside the House. Members of the public reading his speech will claw through its 47 minutes looking for anything that has happened in the past year for which the Government can claim credit.
The Minister rightly said that good things have happened—such as the extremely good directorship of all four collections, most notably of the national gallery under Mr. Neil MacGregor, and of the Tate gallery under Mr. Nicholas Serota. But all that good work has happened in spite of the Government—mainly because of the way in which the museums have worked intelligently with sponsors to help them to realise their ideals.
§ Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle)
Does my hon. Friend agree that the most exciting regional museum to be opened last year—it was opened last May by Her Majesty the Queen—was the Tullie House museum in Carlisle? That excellent museum was conceived by the Labour-controlled council despite Conservative opposition.
§ Mr. Fisher
Yes. The Tullie House museum undoubtedly made last year a special year for the north of England. It is exciting when a brand-new public sector museum opens. Having visited Tullie House, I can confirm that, as my hon. Friend says, it is remarkable, and I commend it to hon. Members on both sides of the House. It contains an extraordinary collection, beautifully presented, and any hon. Members who find themselves in Carlisle would do well to spend a few hours there. They would enjoy themselves very much.
In spite of the Government's hostility to local authorities, and their attitude to local authority finance, local authorities have managed to expand the service in that way—yet the Government have not. It is true that things have happened above the ground at the Tate, but the Government's responsibilities for its fabric—the wiring, the structure, the roofs and so on—have been appallingly neglected.
The Government are in an extraordinarily poor position to congratulate themselves on an annus mirabilis. The Minister made a half-hearted attempt to justify that claim, but he could not identify anything that he or the Government had positively done.
I should like to examine one or two points, and invite the Minister to comment upon them before the Bill receives a Second Reading. The Minister skated over the details of the boards. Their size satisfies everybody—they are small—and the boards of trustees of all the museums have shown that they have the right ability and expertise, and are working well. However, the Minister knows that all the galleries—certainly the Tate and the national gallery—have told him strongly that the Government have the term of the trusteeships wrong.
The Bill says that the term of a trusteeship should be five years, yet, as the Minister knows, the director of the Tate gallery, and the trustees of the Tate and of the 1003 national galleries have made strong representations that, for good sound reasons, that term should be seven years. The trustees and the directors say that it takes two to three years to get the feel of the responsibilities—those responsibilities are considerably greater these days—and to work one's way in and become able to contribute fully. To identify a new chairperson for the board, or to derive full value from bringing on those trustees, five years is too short.
The Minister may say that the trusteeship can be renewed for a further five years, but I see no reason why he has resisted the expert opinion of the trustees and directors of the museums. The term appears to have been fixed on the Minister's personal whim. I am not sure whether he received any evidence from anybody else—from the Museums and Galleries Commission, or from any board of trustees or any director—to support his idea for a period of five years.
If the Minister can identify any objective professional evidence that five years is the period needed, that would be very interesting, but I believe that all the expert evidence that he received supported a period of seven years. It is extraordinary that the Minister should take it into his head that he knows better than people in the museums world, and impose upon them a period that nobody asked for—indeed, everybody asked for the opposite. Perhaps he will answer those questions when he replies.
Clause 4 is undoubtedly the key to the Bill. It deals with disposals, and the implications of disposals. For the first time the Bill gives galleries powers of disposal, subject to certain conditions—or rather it gives such powers to the Tate and the national portrait gallery, but not to the Wallace collection or the national gallery.
The Opposition have no quarrel with the principle of disposal, leaving aside the financial implications. Undoubtedly, if Parliament empowers trustees and directors to use their artistic judgment and professional experience to acquire works of art on behalf of their galleries, it is logical to trust them to use that same judgment to dispose of works of art. In a neutral world, unaffected by other considerations, that would be correct. We should trust the judgment of people such as Mr. MacGregor and Mr. Serota.
However, there are genuine fears. The Minister knows that opinion is well split in the museums world. The national gallery told the Minister's predecessor, the right hon. Member for Shoreham—no doubt the arguments were repeated to the Minister personally by many of the trustees and directors of the museums—that they did not want powers of disposal—not because they did not trust their own intellectual judgment, but, following the line set down in the Museums and Galleries Commission's 1988 report on the national gallery, because those powers should not be forced on the galleries. The trustees asked that Parliament should not confer such powers on them.
That was the view of the MGC in 1988, and I understand that it remains the view of many of the directors, not because of the matter of intellectual judgment or scholarship, but because of fears that the Government will seek to put pressure on their finances.
The Minister has gone some way towards allaying those fears by adding the proviso that any money from disposals should be used for the acquisition of further works. 1004 However, that leaves the galleries open to pressure, when they come to the Minister and make points such as that which I made at the beginning of my speech—saying, for instance, that last year the Tate gallery could buy only one work of art. In future the Minister will be able to refer to the Bill and say, "Parliament has given you the power to dispose of works of art, if you wish to acquire more—and, in using those receipts from disposals, you are specifically confined to making further acquisitions.
If those at the Tate do not believe that the acquisition of one picture a year is sufficient to keep its contemporary art collection up to date, the Government could tell them to use the powers in the Bill to dispose of works of art. Directors of galleries are worried about that.
The Minister may say that that argument is unreasonable. He may turn the argument on those galleries by saying that, in effect, they are admitting that they do not have any works of art that are available or appropriate for disposal. The Minister might then argue, with some validity, that huge revenue is not to be gained from such disposals. That would be a good debating ploy. However, the fact is that if the directors of galleries wish to raise money the Minister can refer them to the Bill and powers contained in clause 4. That is worrying in view of the way in which the Government have handled the purchasing grant—the acquisition grant—of the galleries in the past few years.
As part of the Minister's annus mirabilis—no doubt he would say that there have been 12 anni mirabilis; I think that that is right—
§ Mr. Fisher
I am glad that I got that right.
In the past seven years, the acquisition grants of the galleries have been frozen. The national portrait gallery now gets £310,000. In cash terms that is exactly the same as the amount it received seven years ago. The Tate gallery gets £1.8 million, which is exactly the same as it got in 1984–85. The national gallery gets £2.75 million, the same as it received seven years ago and rather less than it received 10 years ago. During that time the allocation to that gallery has been reduced, and subsequently frozen. The Wallace is the exception because it has not been asked to increase its collection. The other three galleries, however, have experienced a Government who have said, effectively, "We don't want you to buy works of art. We believe that your acquisition money should be frozen at the 1984 level." However, the Bill requires those galleries to buy works of art, but it will take a long time to make such acquisitions.
§ Sir Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)
Surely the test of all this is not necessarily how big the Government grant for acquisitions is but what the galleries are able to acquire. I would support strongly a bigger Government grant for acquisitions because there are many good uses to which it could be put. Although the national gallery has had a limited grant, it has, by various means available to it, acquired not only a marvellous new building, but many great works of art.
§ Mr. Fisher
I was just about to make that point and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman raised it.
Given the way in which the grant works, the national gallery is only able to buy works on instalments. The right hon. Gentleman follows such matters closely and he will be 1005 aware that the typical price of the major works that the national gallery must buy is several millions. At the moment that gallery is engaged—I use the word advisedly —in purchasing an important Cuyp landscape. It is worth £8 million and the gallery has had to purchase it through three annual instalments negotiated with the previous owners. That is the only way it can acquire that one work. In addition to the third instalment on the Cuyp, the national gallery has made the first instalment on a Cranage painting. That is the way in which the gallery has to operate.
If the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir T. Raison) inquires of the trustees arid directors of either the national or the Tate he will be told in no uncertain terms that it is extremely unsatisfactory that they cannot acquire the sort of painting that they need to keep their collections fresh and up to date. They will also raise a much more important issue with him.
It is not only a matter of those galleries buying great emblematic works of art. The thing that makes British museums and galleries so exciting and unique is that, unlike American ones, they have a duty to collect not just the high spots of any period, but the average, sometimes even the bad. works of art which represent the context from which the great works of art arose. When one visits a gallery it is important to look at the great works in the context of their period. If the right hon. Gentleman talks to those directors, they will back what I say.
§ Mr. Fisher
The right hon. Gentleman may disagree, but that is true.
The Government's attitude has made it difficult for galleries to acquire the keynote works that they need. It has been almost impossible for them to acquire the artistic infrastructure that should surround those works so that they can be seen in the right scholarship context.
§ Sir Timothy Raison
I accept that many museums are concerned with acquiring such context works, but the national gallery is in the business, quite rightly, of acquiring the very finest works. The hon. Gentleman has said that it is in the process of acquiring two incredibly beautiful works and the point is that it is acquiring them even though they cost much more than the nominal amount of Government grant available. With the aid of the national art collections fund and other means, the galleries can raise other resources to acquire the finest works. We would like them to acquire more, of course, but they do not have a bad record.
§ Mr. Fisher
The right hon. Gentleman and I will have to disagree about the difficulties that those galleries face. I would be surprised if he did not agree with me that it is wrong that the Tate can buy only one picture a year. That is apart from the fact that it cannot fill any holes in its Picasso, Matisse or Henry Moore collections.
The Tate cannot even afford works by fine living British artists like Howard Hodgkin. Such works are out of the range of the Tate's powers of acquisition. If the Tate is unable to buy the works of young British artists, as it should, its collections will be enormously deficient. That is especially significant as it is the key contemporary house of 20th century works of art in Britain.
§ Mr. Renton
I noted what my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir T. Raison) said and it is 1006 interesting that, in reply, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) has tried to sit on both sides of the fence on the difficult question of acquisitions and disposals. He must declare his hand.
The Tate is primarily concerned with collecting contemporary art but it is never able to show more than from 23 to 25 per cent. of its collection at any time. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he would not give it the limited powers of disposal available in clause 4(4)(b)? The hon. Gentleman must declare his hand and say whether he is in favour of those disposal powers.
§ Mr. Fisher
We will discuss that clause in detail in Committee. I have already said that the Opposition support the Bill. We have a bipartisan approach to it. However, we have grave reservations about clause 4 if it is left in the hands of a Government who have a long track record of being mean with acquisition money.
The intellectual case for disposal is fine and if a Government take an intelligent view about the need to buy new pictures it poses no danger. However, this Government have frozen, deliberately, purchase grants even in the past three years when the Minister has had funds at his disposal. He has increased funds to the Arts Council, so why has he not unfrozen the acquisition grants?
I have said several times that we will not oppose the Bill. If it does not pass through the House before the general election, the next Labour Government will pick it up and enact it. However, the difference is that the powers of disposal in clause 4 will then stem from a Labour Government who have a strong commitment to expand collections rather than to freeze acquisition funds. The Minister cannot duck the fact that, even in the years when he had some money from the Chief Secretary to dispose on our arts and cultural life, he deliberately chose not to unfreeze the purchase grants of the galleries. I am not surprised that the Minister looks away with some embarrassment. [Interruption.] Perhaps the Minister finds that worthy of a chuckle. If he finds it amusing that he did not unfreeze acquisition grants even in the years when he had the money to do so, he is in a bad way. The Government's record on acquiring works of art in those important national museums is nothing short of a disgrace, and the Bill does nothing to deal with the problem.
Towards the end of his speech, the Minister slipped in a remark about the change to indemnities that the Government have introduced. In case the Minister is becoming a little hard of hearing, I repeat that we welcome that change and believe that the Minister was wrong to put that provision in the Bill in the first place. He said that he received representations from directors and trustees last week. Will he confirm that, even until early yesterday afternoon, he was saying that that part of the Bill would stand? That is certainly what I have heard. I do not know what happened later yesterday afternoon to change his mind but I am delighted that it has been changed. He may inadvertently have misrepresented the position slightly because he gave the impression that representations were made just a week or so ago and that now he had changed his mind. Representations about the problems that accrue from that matter were made to him long before last week. I do not wish to put the Minister in an embarrassing position in case he changes his mind, but I am delighted that the Government have withdrawn the provision, even 1007 though the Minister did not present the full picture. Nevertheless, I congratulate him on having had the courage to withdraw the provision. He was right to do so because it would be better to return to the conditions that pertain under the National Heritage Act 1980.
§ Mr. Renton
I assure the hon. Gentleman that I first received representations from the directors in my box on Friday night when I returned from two days in Paris looking at the grands travaux.
§ Mr. Renton
I knew that the hon. Gentleman would appreciate that.
As for the remarks of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) about what happened yesterday afternoon, I am afraid that, in his rounds of the art galleries, the hon. Gentleman listens to too much gossip that comes out of SW1 at lunch times. That is where he happens to hear the little stories that he mentioned.
§ Mr. Fisher
Just as the House does not begrudge the Minister his long introductory remarks, it does not begrudge him his last trip to Paris as Minister. I hope that he enjoyed it, but I wish that he had gone earlier and had learnt from the French socialist Minister what a Government should do for the arts and how they should support it. I hope that he has learnt something from the majesty and beauty of some of those grands projets like Ieoh Pei's pyramid at the Louvre—[Interruption.] It is an extremely beautiful building. It is too late for the Minister to learn those lessons.
§ Sir Timothy Raison
In endorsing French socialist policy on the arts, does the hon. Gentleman support the French socialist policy of charging for museums?
§ Mr. Fisher
We do not support all the French Government's proposals. As the Minister fairly said, their museums have a different tradition. French museum curators envy us our wider access—or what was our wider access—and there is no reason why we should ape everything French. Although I have criticisms of Mr. Lang's policies, the French Government believe in the arts and the fact that Governments have a positive role to play, which is good. I am sad that the Minister has gone to Paris too late to be able to put into practice any of the lessons that he may have learnt.
§ Mr. Flannery
While respecting what the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir T. Raison) said, let me say that we had a tradition whereby we did not pay to enter museums. That tradition was laid down clearly at the beginning of the last century. France has a different tradition. I think that our tradition is better than the French tradition. Therefore, surely the right hon. Gentleman never dreamed that we would accede to jumping over and supporting their tradition, whether it has come from a socialist Government or not.
§ Mr. Fisher
I agree absolutely with my hon. Friend.
The Bill has been around for a long time and received much attention from the previous Minister, the right hon. Member for Shoreham. It is extraordinary that, after such a long period of gestation, the Bill should come to the 1008 House imperfect so that the Minister must make a change at five minutes to midnight. He has been rather arrogant in failing to listen to the perfectly objective and non-partisan advice of trustees and directors about the term of trustees. I hope that he will consider that again in Committee and that we can return to him on that point.
Although we support the Bill and feel that it is a useful measure, with one or two provisos that I have already mentioned, we do not support the neglect that the Government have displayed towards those museums, their purchasing grants, repairs, maintenance, salaries, the gap between their grants and their obligations, and the fact that the shadow of charging lies over all of them from their other national museum colleagues. The Government's record on the care of museums has been nothing short of a disgrace for the past 10 years. The museums world cannot wait until 9 April for a change of Government. They will then get a Government who believe in museums and who do not make the type of extraordinary remark that the Minister made when he said:Museums should compete with sports grounds for scholarship and education".Can any Tory Member explain what the Minister meant by those words? They sum up the confusion, lack of policy and lack of clarity of the Minister's policies in the past year and of the Government's policies in the past 10 years. It is better that the Government go and we have a Government committed to improving our museums in the 1990s.
§ Dr. John G. Blackburn (Dudley, West)
Although I support the Bill enthusiastically, my support is not unqualified. Will my right hon. Friend the Minister accept a warm and generous tribute on bringing the Bill to the House this afternoon? Irrespective of what has been said in the past half an hour, I believe that he has given an excellent account of his stewardship of the arts on behalf of this country.
Furthermore, I see in the Bill the handprint of my right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Sir R. Luce). I shall always have tremendous affection and admiration for his work over a long period as Minister for the Arts. Against that background, I am not prepared—in the House, the country or a general election—to take the criticism that we have heard from the Opposition.
When we consider the Government's track record, we hear a great hallelujah from the arts world. They say that the Conservative Government and the two Ministers I have mentioned gave them a three-year programme and that they could not have gone on, year by year, living hand to mouth with no opportunity to plan and create policies. We brought into being a three-year programme and then added to it a rolling programme to ensure an overlap and continuity.
§ Mr. Flannery
The hon. Gentleman will be happy to know that the Select Committee on the Arts fought for that policy for years. As it forms part of the public and private funding of the arts—a major import—we dealt with all those aspects. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Shoreham for his work, and I profoundly agree about the three-year period because the one-year period simply did not work.
§ Dr. Blackburn
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. I think that he would also agree that we have no vested interest in the subject. I openly confess that I do 1009 not care whether the concept came from the Select Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Sir R. Luce) or my right hon. Friend the Minister—I simply rejoice that it is there, and I believe that my rejoicing is echoed in the arts world.
Public interest in the arts has grown enormously throughout the country during the past decade. Government policies—exemplified in the Bill—have resulted in increased Government funding. Let us quietly and soberly think about this "disgraceful Government" who have neglected the arts. By the same token, they have given a 30 per cent. increase in real terms in funding for the arts. I should like to see more such neglect; I want such neglect from a Conservative Government—they have increased funding by 38 per cent. in real terms, and they support the arts world. I believe that the arts constitute the life blood of society. They help to create character and enhance education. It is a blessing to have men and women with gift and talent in the arena of the arts.
The Government have also given those in the arts greater opportunity to be masters of their own destinies. Do people object to that? We have heard time and again this afternoon that the wicked Conservative Government have no interest in the arts and are philistines. Let us consider what they have done. They have stated that funding of the arts can be encouraged from the private sector. It just so happens that my London home is adjacent to the Tate gallery, and as I pass there, morning and evening—
§ Dr. Blackburn
As does the hon. Gentleman.
As I pass the Tate gallery, I unashamedly salute Barclays bank, Shell and the other companies that sponsor the arts. Instead of condemning them, we should support and salute them as they give funds, which is wonderful. The private sector contributed £500,000 12 years ago. I gently and respectfully disagree with my right hon. Friend the Minister, who said that the funds now stood at more than £40 million. I believe that the figure is even higher than that.
I support the arts, which are precious to me; I support a Government who will support the arts as this Government have, and I salute anyone who is prepared to sponsor the arts. Those simple facts are enhanced by the Minister saying in clear terms that he wants value for money. That is a good expression for us all to live with. In order to get value for money for the Government's record amount of arts funding, the Minister says that the Government will streamline them and make them efficient. He reduced the number of local arts councils from 12 to 10.I have heard of no adverse effects as a result of that modest streamlining—other hon. Members can give their own accounts.
The arts are the greatest blessing for people, both young and old, in forming their education and scholarship, and also in creating their character. I do not believe that anyone could visit the Clore gallery, spend two hours there and come out without their lives being enriched, irrespective of their standing in society. They all have the common desire to search for knowledge, and appreciate the beauty of the arts.
By its very nature, the Bill centres on the metropolis, which I welcome. Like everyone else, I am proud to say that we are striving to make the metropolis the centre of 1010 the arts world. That is why, when we make foolish criticisms, we should stop and consider that 1.5 million people go to the Tate gallery each year—there has been a modest increase of 2 per cent. in that figure in the past year. Large numbers of people also visit the national gallery and other such institutions. I am sure that other hon. Members will say amen to that and make a better contribution than I am.
I have pledged myself as a disciple of the Bill. With my gift of prophecy I foresee that, after 9 April, the same Minister will be sitting on the same Front Bench representing the Conservative party. I want him to go on producing such measures, because the arts are alive north of Watford.
Clause 2(1)(b) is the soul of the Bill. If I had to choose one part of the Bill I would stand by its aim of securingthat the works of art are exhibited to the public".That is what art is about—exhibiting to the public. It has been openly confessed that 75 per cent. of the works collected in the Tate, apart from those used for research and those on travelling exhibitions, remain in the bowels of the gallery, which I find offensive. I utterly agree that we shouldsecure that the works of art are exhibited to the public".It is no use me standing here and saying that that is what I want. I have an obligation as a Member of Parliament to support and implement that policy. At 2.30 this afternoon, I telephoned the art gallery in the town that I have the honour to represent—Dudley. I spoke to the art gallery's curator and said, "It is within my knowledge that the greatest work of art that you have in this modest little provincial art gallery is that of Joseph Mallord William Turner." To which he replied, "Yes." I asked, "When is it to be exhibited?" He said, "Monday, sir." In my humble, modest way, perhaps my phone call has ensured that a work of art is shown where people of the black country can see it, which is what it is all about. I would get just as much support for that if I were a Labour Member—my aim is to show people our wonderful gifts. We must exhibit, exhibit, exhibit—that is our role in the arts world.
Clause 7 deals with donations. I thank God for all donators, no matter how high or humble, who donate their works, talents, gifts and products to the nation. In the middle of the last century there was a man whose father walked from Devon to London to find a job and opened a barber's shop in Covent Garden. He married the butcher's girl from next door, and as a result of that union Joseph Mallord William Turner was born. When he died in Chelsea, he left £180,000 and his desire was that the money should be given to support the young artists of this country which he loved. His second request was that all his works be given to the nation.
§ Dr. Blackburn
I am delighted that there is a common bond between us. Turner offered his life's work to the nation on condition that it be exhibited to the public free. The second condition was that the works of art should be housed as one collection. That dream was not realised until 1 April 1987, when, thanks to the generosity of the trustees of Mr. Clore, the Queen opened the Clore gallery. I have always been humbled and thrilled by that event, which represented the culmination of a wonderful life and donation to the nation.
1011 I want the Minister to write to me explaining the position of the Clore gallery. I want to know the general position of donations to the nation by men of talent such as the one I have described.
This is an historic day in the life of the arts in this country. I wish the Bill godspeed. I am sure that one day, in our quiet moments, each of us who was involved in its passage will be able to say, as we pass the national gallery, the national portrait gallery, the Wallace collection or the Tate gallery, that we are glad of our stewardship in the honourable House that brought about this Bill.
Finally, I should like to express a personal "thank you" to the Minister.
§ Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central)
I cannot quite match the feeling with which the hon. Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn) spoke, nor have I ever been moved, on pasing down the Embankment, to salute Barclays bank, British Petroleum or any other company. I have always been glad that many public companies have been willing to contribute to the arts, but I also recognise that they do so for not entirely altruistic reasons. They derive considerable kudos from such support, and there are also corporation tax advantages to be had from being generous to the arts and sport.
I do not wish to join in the orgy of self-congratulation that appears to have broken out on the Government Benches, but I do agree with the part of the speech by the hon. Member for Dudley, West in which he drew attention to clause 2, which aims to secure that works of art are exhibited to the public. Quite so; it is precisely because of my anxiety that that may not always happen that I rise to make one or two criticisms of the Bill.
First, however, I congratulate the Minister on having dropped clause 10, with the new section 16A(10), which would have made it more difficult for members of the public to see certain works of art exhibited in this country and abroad. That subsection would have made it less likely that works of art, particularly expensive ones that had to be insured at great cost, would be swapped temporarily or for long periods between galleries in this country and in the world at large.
If it is our aim to ensure that the public can see works of art, anything that can be done to enable works of art to be moved around the country and around the world so that as many people as possible get to see them is desirable— so the Government opted for the best solution by dropping new section 16A(10). I wait to see what the Minister will table by way of substitution. My experience is that the Government sometimes substitute parts of Bills with provisions that are just as objectionable as the original parts that gave rise to complaint. We will wait and see.
I want to address the House on the question of disposals, and particularly on disposals policy as it relates to the national galleries of Scotland. Of course there will be occasions when galleries will want to dispose of works of art. I am not an expert in the art world; some people would even call me a philistine—my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) has often done so. I am the same as any other member of the public: I know what I like and do not like, or at least I think I do.
1012 I have found it difficult to join in what is known as the arts world or in the gatherings of art critics who tell us what is good and what is bad. I am certainly not in a position to say which up-and-coming artists should have their works included in an exhibition. I have always suspected that the successful ones were those who had attended the right wine and cheese parties. In any event, that is a matter for others, not for this House.
I am worried that museums and galleries may be put in the invidious position of having to sell works of art that they want to keep in order to finance their continuing collection of new works of art. Worse still, they should not have to sell works of art to make ends meet.
In 1985, the national gallery of Scotland was given a power that it never sought, enabling it to dispose of works of art. Some two years after the passage of legislation, one of the trustees wrote to The Times pointing out that they did not want the power and drawing attention to the fact that the Scottish Education Department had referred to the power in the 1985 legislation when considering the funding of the national galleries of Scotland.
It seems perfectly obvious to me that, if art galleries are expected to dispose of works of art, the Government of the day will try to lean on the trustees or management of the institutions concerned to ensure that they sell works of art to fund day-to-day running costs or new acquisitions. That is thoroughly undesirable.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central has already mentioned the problem that the Tate gallery may face because it will have a power of disposal that the national gallery does not have. It is difficult to legislate to specify exactly when a work of art can be sold and when it cannot, but I hope that we can agree that it would be deeply regrettable if works of art were sold into private collections with the result that people could never see them again. People acquire works of art sometimes to look at them but as often as not as assets. They might just as well own gold bars in a basement or a bank—they possess a work of art that no one will see. It will be regrettable if works of art now on display pass into private ownership and remain out of sight for years or even for centuries.
I want to refer to the problem that the national gallery of Scotland faces. The Minister said that the Bill primarily deals with the national gallery, the Tate, the national portrait gallery and the Wallace collection, bodies for which he has direct ministerial responsibility. The national gallery of Scotland falls within the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is not here. One might imagine that he had a great interest in national museums and art galleries, because he and his colleagues may find themselves hung in such institutions quite soon, so it would not be in their interests to put at risk their portraits or monuments by allowing them to be sold into private collections in years to come, when people have forgotten what they ever looked like. No Scottish Minister is here today, so the Minister for the Arts must answer the points that I am about to make, because the Scottish galleries are mentioned all too briefly in this Bill.
The national gallery of Scotland faces the problem that, because it has the power to dispose of works of art, pressure will be brought to bear, as it has been already, to force it to dispose of works of art so as to fund its day-to-day activities or new acquisitions. The more serious problem is that it has already been made clear to the 1013 gallery that it will not receive a donation because the donor is not prepared to run the risk that his donation will go from the gallery into private hands.
This morning, I met Sir Denis Mahon, who is well known in the arts world. He told me that he is in an invidious position. He wants to donate a 17th-century Italian work of art to the national gallery of Scotland, but he does not want to run the risk that the gallery may be forced to sell it, or that the trustees will sell it on so that it is lost to public view. That is extremely serious, because art galleries depend on donations to fulfil their functions and the national gallery of Scotland may not receive a donation because the Government have given it powers which it did not want, for which it did not ask and which are downright dangerous.
When he responded to the point that I made in an intervention, the Minister seemed uninterested. He said first that his Department had never heard of the problem. When pressed, he conceded that the Scottish Office had mentioned it, but, happily in his view, an official had come up with the view that, because of a technicality, the matter could not be dealt with in the Bill.
However, I should like to press it upon the Minister that this is an extremely serious matter. There is no reason why the national gallery of Scotland should be more disadvantaged than the equivalent gallery in England. If it is good enough for there to be strong controls on the national gallery in England, why should not the same controls exist for a comparable gallery in Scotland?
I shall be complimentary to the Minister, which is more than he was to me. He knows something about Scotland. I know that, since taking up office, he has visited Scotland two or three times. Indeed, I think that he owns or leases a part of Scotland on one of the islands. He must realise that there is a thriving arts world in Edinburgh and other parts of Scotland, particularly Glasgow. The hon. Member for Dudley, West is no longer with us, but he made the point that there is a strong feeling outside London that the Government and the critics who write in London newspapers do not understand that there are thriving arts communities north of the M25.
No one can understand why the national gallery of Scotland was given powers so detrimental to its functions and so highly damaging, especially when the gallery has been faced with the problem that it will not get an important donation because of powers which it did not want but which the Government forced on it. It Follows from this that I should like the Government to table a suitable amendment to the Bill, and I am confident that one can be found, to enable the national gallery of Scotland to be on exactly the same footing—not in a more favourable one—as equivalent galleries in England.
The Minister spoke of hybridity and this point has already been raised. The definition of a hybrid Bill is:a public Bill which affects a particular private interest in a manner different from the private interest of other persons or bodies of the same category or class".If the Bill can affect the private interest of four galleries in England, how can it be said to be hybrid if it were to affect the private interest of one Scottish gallery? The Minister should ask his officials to look at this matter again.
I do not know what will happen in Committee. I hope that an amendment will be tabled. If necessary, it will have to be spoken to at great length. The Minister should not 1014 get off the hook by fobbing off the problem that the national gallery of Scotland faces on the basis of a dubious legal technicality.
That speaks volumes for the lack of interest and inactivity of the Scottish Office, which has not been prepared to advocate this cause with enthusiasm. The Scottish Office was alerted to the problem some months ago, but obviously it has done nothing about it. No Minister from the Scottish Office has turned up today. This Minister is clearly not briefed on the subject. This matter, like many others, could be adequately dealt with in a Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
Those in the Minister's Department did not know about the problem, so it was not a problem, because it was out of sight of the galleries that they see in London and with which they are terribly familiar. They should remember that there are art galleries outside London which should be catered for.
I hope the Minister will consider this point when the matter comes to Committee, or it will have to be pressed again and again. I do not know whether this was inadvertent, but I am sure that it was due to lack of interest and incompetence. I assure the Minister that it is deeply resented, and it is harmful to the interests of the national gallery of Scotland. It is in the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom that we should have galleries in London and Scotland to collect and maintain works of art that the public can see, and that is not happening.
§ Mr. Renton
The hon. Gentleman is deeply unjust. I answered his points completely and quickly and told him that the matter was under consideration by the Secretary of State for Scotland and does not come directly to me. As I understand it, the problem is one of hybridity, and the hon. Gentleman should know this and give credence to it. The other Scottish national institutions—the national library and the national museum—have not found any problems with the disposal powers given to them under the Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act 1991. I have a full brief on this matter, and I know that the director of the national gallery of Scotland has recently raised it.
The hon. Gentleman described his conversation this morning with Sir Denis Mahon, and the possible bequest by Sir Denis to the national gallery of Scotland. The hon. Gentleman claimed that Sir Denis might not make that bequest if the disposal powers of the national gallery of Scotland were not changed to those that we are giving to the national galleries affected by the Bill. Why does not the gift of Sir Denis Mahon go to the national gallery of Scotland under a strict trust, binding in law on the trustees, that does not permit the picture to be sold? Why not follow that route?
§ Mr. Darling
The Minister might just as well apply the logic of that argument to the national gallery in London. If it is good enough for Edinburgh, it is good enough for London. I think that Sir Denis would find it unreasonable that, as a donor, he should be cautioned before doing anything else, and certainly before parting with a work of art, to go to a trust lawyer, no doubt an expensive one, to draw up the so-called trust. That is unreasonable.
The Minister did not say that the Secretary of State for Scotland was considering the matter. If the Secretary of State is considering it, I would welcome that, but the Minister rather gave the impression that the matter had been considered and then dismissed, because of the 1015 hybridity argument. We shall wait to see what will happen in Committee, but, having had some dealings with the Minister in his previous job but one, I am not particularly optimistic.
The Minister also mentioned the national library of Scotland—perhaps I should declare an interest as a trustee of the library—which has slightly different problems. Now that the national gallery of Scotland may not be getting a bequest that it had previously been offered, we should be on our guard and deal with such problems.
The Minister's use of such a poor argument is unimpressive. Judging by his demeanour, I am not optimistic, but we can return to the matter in Committee, where it will no doubt be pursued. I just hope that the Minister accepts that there is genuine concern. A small amendment would solve the problem. If the only argument is hybridity, and if that argument could be overcome, a suitable amendment, perhaps framed by the Minister's draftsman, would be welcomed.
There is a general welcome for the Bill. I cannot comment on that because I do not profess any knowledge of the majority of it. For the sake of completeness, and as the Minister was trumpeting his achievements and rather belittling those of local authorities, I should make this point. Next time he comes to Scotland—I feel that it will be under his own steam—perhaps he will look around Edinburgh. In addition to the national gallery and the national portrait gallery, the Edinburgh district council has done a tremendous job in building the local arts in Edinburgh. We were the first in Britain to get the Chinese exhibition "The Emperor's Warriors", although one would not have known it from reading the arts critics based here in London. We had "Pharaoh's Gold" and many other exhibitions. That is a splendid example of what a local authority can do in partnership with a public gallery and private money. I hope that the Minister will not belittle that. It ill becomes the Government to belittle the efforts being made by local authorities.
I end where I started. If clause 2 is to have some meaning and the public are to have access to the arts, the Minister should think again, particularly with regard to the problem faced by the national gallery of Scotland to which I have drawn his attention.
§ Sir Richard Luce (Shoreham)
I strongly welcome the Bill and congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts on its introduction. It is his achievement, not mine. For a long time I wanted such a Bill to be introduced and it is my right hon. Friend's achievement to have produced it in a form that deserves the support of the House. I am glad that the Opposition intend to support the Bill.
After 20 months it is nice to have another glimpse of the familiar debates on arts matters in the House. Nothing much has changed. The Government continue to display a fine record and to build up that record to make our achievement over the past 12 years even finer. The Opposition continue to lash around, looking back to the past in a rather neolithic fashion, being rather disparaging about patrons and going on about charges when they 1016 know perfectly well, as my right hon Friend says, that that is a matter of choice for the trustees of the individual museums; looking back in anger.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) is fascinated by the arts world and he knows a lot about it, but he does himself and the Labour party a disservice when he launches into an attack on areas of Government policy on the arts where our achievement is remarkable. For example, we have been working jointly with the private and public sectors in building up the great success story of our museums and galleries. The hon. Gentleman fairly said that he would like to examine the Government's policies, for which I had a heavy responsibility, on, for example, the freezing of purchase grants for institutions on which I followed the policy of my predecessor, as has my right hon. Friend. It is perfectly legitimate to examine such a matter, and before I conclude I shall suggest the right way forward for the 1990s, but the hon. Gentleman does himself and his party a great disservice when he attacks the Government in areas where there has clearly been a remarkable achievement.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) is not here. He is a familiar part and pattern of our debates on the arts, but he intervened earlier when he referred to the natural history museum. He and I have had many an exchange on that subject and on many others. A great compliment was paid me when a journalist on The Guardian, writing a piece which was intended to attack me bitterly on my policies on the arts, came to the conclusion in the last paragraph thatThe best way to deal with Mr. Luce as Minister for the Arts is to have him stuffed and placed in the Natural History museum.I cannot think of a nicer compliment. Long after the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central has disappeared from the parliamentary scene and has been forgotten, in 200 years' time my great great grandchildren will go to the natural history museum and pay a good charge to contribute to improvements to that museum to see their ancestor who was once Minister for the Arts. I am proud of my association with the natural history museum.
I support the concept behind the Bill and the work that my right hon. Friend has been doing. He has already struck a real chord in the arts world. He is clearly a man who knows about, understands, and has a great feeling and love for the arts. That has come across clearly. He is now, brick by brick, constructing further the Government's policy to help the arts to achieve even greater things. I congratulate him on that and I look forward to congratulating him in three and a half years' time on breaking my record of five years in office. I hope that he has a long time in the job.
The Bill refers particularly to the four great national galleries and confirms the policy of encouraging a diversity of funding for those institutions. That principle is singularly important. That is why I was critical of so many Opposition Members for being so disparaging about patrons such as the Sainsbury family who have done wonderful things for our arts.
Firmly embedded in the Bill is the principle that we should be able to manage our museums in a businesslike fashion; that they should be able to diversify their money so that they are not completely dependent on the Government, although the grant in aid is important; that they should be able to charge if they wish, but if not, that is fair enough and that they should make good use of the 1017 commercial activities that can be based in such institutions, whether cafes or shops, and to encourage sponsorship.
§ Mr. Fisher
Before the right hon. Gentleman goes on to his next point, I am sure that he would not wish to misrepresent the Opposition's case. At no point in my remarks, today or previously, have I disparaged patrons. Indeed, I join the Minister in paying tribute to people such as the Sainsbury brothers for their generosity to the national gallery and to Mr. Clore and his daughter, Mrs. Vivien Duffield, for the Clore gallery. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that I made no criticism of the generosity of such people. The nation owes them a great debt.
§ Sir Richard Luce
I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has intervened and made clear his position. I was referring to some of the sedentary remarks during the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Minister when he was referring to the patrons. I am delighted that he has given such robust support to our patrons of the arts.
My right hon. Friend referred to the record of refurbishment in the institutions, and that record is remarkable. It has been achieved by joint funding from the public and private sectors. The Sainsbury wing is a remarkable achievement and there is the new Berggruen collection, the refurbishment of the national portrait gallery, the new Tate gallery in Liverpool and all the great efforts that are being made to extend the accessibility of paintings to other parts of the country. My right hon. Friend has contributed to the extension of the St. Ives school of painting and the Tate gallery in the north. I am also glad that he mentioned Lord Wilson and the plan to invest about £20 million for the improvement of our museums and galleries. All that is good and remarkable progress in the right direction.
The way in which my right hon. Friend has dealt with the question of disposals is right. I took the view that after a period of consultation with the institutions one should seek to tailor the policy of disposals to the interests, history and traditions of a particular institution. The Wallace collection is of its own kind; there are no acquisitions or disposals. The national gallery has another set of proposals and the Tate gallery another. That is the way to deal with the problem.
If we are not to adopt a policy of radical disposals, a policy of great freedom, the mobility and accessibility of our works of art is vital. The provisions in the Bill to improve indemnity and to encourage the transfer of objects to other institutions are an important contribution. It would be helpful if my right hon. Friend could say something more when he replies about the Government's encouragement of more touring and exhibiting of works of art.
I reached the conclusion some time ago that, regardless of the complexion of the Government, there is never adequate money for acquisitions, getting the fabric of our great national institution in an ideal state, and saving important works of art. The demands and pressures from Departments concerned with education, health, and other sectors are such that those three objectives cannot ever be wholly met by the taxpayers. I agree therefore with my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) that the best way forward in the 1990s is the introduction of a 1018 national lottery. The sooner that the Government commit themselves to one, the better it will be for the arts, sport and other interests.
A national lottery must never be seen as a substitute for public expenditure on the arts, but as a way of adding formidably to available resources.
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
I have always regarded the right hon. Gentleman as a distinguished holder of the office of Minister for the Arts and I agree that sponsorship money must continue to be available. There would be so much demand for the resources available from a national lottery that I am not sure how much would be used for the purposes that the right hon. Gentleman and I have in mind. There is no real alternative to public funding.
§ Sir Richard Luce
Let us be clear. The Government have a remarkably good record on arts funding and there is no doubt that their commitment to maintaining support through taxpayers' money remains. However, we seek greater diversity of resources, which would strengthen the arts still further. I do not see a national lottery as a substitute for public expenditure, but as a way of substantially supplementing overall available resources in areas that one would not expect the taxpayer wholly to finance.
I am glad to support the Bill and all the remarkable work done by the Minister. I may add, in what is probably my last contribution—[HON. MEMBERS: "No".]—in the House, at least on the arts, that anyone who has enjoyed the privilege of serving as Minister for the Arts cannot but help form a great affection for all those who work in them. They do a wonderful job for the millions more people who seek to enjoy the arts today than did 20 years or 30 years ago. The Bill will play a modest part in that process.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
I mean no discourtesy, but I will have to leave the Chamber after my brief contribution, because I have a meeting with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and that is important business.
The right hon. Member for Shoreham (Sir R. Luce) did a good job as Minister for the Arts, despite the constraints imposed on him by the lunatic policies of the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). It is touching that he wants to end up as an exhibit, like Jeremy Bentham —stuffed and put on display in the natural history museum. I am not sure that I would pay money to see him, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman realises we would like him to go now—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and undergo that process of taxidermy. I may add that we on this side of the House intend at the general election to stuff the whole Conservative party.
We have no ideological hang-up about private sponsorship of the arts. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) has often said, we are quite prepared to accept additional resources from that quarter. However, as the right hon. Member for Shoreham said, they must be truly additional, and not be used to replace core funding.
Areas such as my own—and we have the Theatre Royal in Stratford—find it difficult to secure business sponsorship. We have some, and we are most grateful for the money that we receive from the London electricity board and the London Docklands development corporation. 1019 However, the total sum is not very great. Thanks to Government policies, the recession has not left much of an industrial base to which an appeal for additional funds can be made. It is not easy trying to raise supplementary resources.
The Minister quoted a figure for business sponsorship ranging from £500,000 to £40 million. While that is welcome news, one would like more evidence and detail to be certain that that is not simply a guesstimate by the Minister's officials.
§ Mr. Renton
That estimate was not mine, but that of the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts. I am sure that it will give the hon. Gentleman full details, if he requests them.
§ Mr. Banks
I am not altogether satisfied from the way those figures are collated that they present an entirely accurate picture. I will let that pass, but we need to know that money is available, and that it is not simply a figure that the Government assume—on the basis of a random selection of statistics from ABSA—is available as top-up, not replacement, money.
The right hon. Member for Shoreham was probably alluding to my few remarks about the Sainsbury boys, to whom I referred as fat cats. They are—and they can certainly afford to give the support that they do. There is no such thing as a free lunch, either for the Sainsburys or for the arts, galleries, and museums—and not even for the right hon. Member for Shoreham. The money in question had to come from somewhere.
I was only suggesting that all the people who buy their baked beans or whatever at Sainsbury are making a contribution to the arts through the checkout tills. We are grateful for those resources, but we must remember that there are also tax breaks for those who put money into the arts privately, so we should not fall to our knees and fawn at the feet of those who have an awful lot of money at their disposal.
It is a good idea to allow galleries and museums to rationalise their collections from time to time, where there is an overlap. However, I am anxious that items for disposal should go to other public institutions, rather than to private collections. Perhaps we can draw out more detail on that aspect in Committee. Even an item that is in a reserve public collection and has been hidden away in a basement ought not to be sold to a private collection.
Concern might be felt also by those who intend to bequeath items to public museums and art galleries, on the understanding that they will be kept in the public domain. That is true also of land and other property of the kind mentioned in the Bill. If such a bequest has attached to it a codicil stating that it should not be disposed of to a private collection, the museum or gallery must decide whether it will accept the gift on those terms.
It would be cruel if people left their collection of cheese labels to a public institution, only to find after they have gone to the great museum in the sky, on looking down from their lofty heights, that their cheese labels were to be sold at Sotheby's or Christie's.
A plaque outside the Horniman states that it was bequeathed to the people of London as a free museum. If 1020 admission charges are imposed, that would clearly go against the good intentions of the individual who made the original bequest.
I would like to ask the Minister directly whether, if the Bill goes through, as one assumes that it will because we on the Opposition Benches will give it a fair wind, it will, for example, allow the British museum to lend to the new Acropolis museum in Athens the Elgin or Parthenon marbles. That is an interesting concept, because they would be on public display. The new Acropolis museum has been designed specifically to entice back the Parthenon marbles.
I am delighted that the leader of my party has said that that is what will happen, because it would be an act of great solidarity with our Greek friends. Many of us take holidays in Greece and we love the Greek people dearly. They would value and treasure far more their own national heritage, which we have got locked up in the British museum, than we do. We could have a polystyrene imitation of the marbles. I do not suppose that many people would notice the difference. In the meantime, those beautiful marbles could be restored to their rightful place in the wonderful city of Athens. Will this Bill assist such a transfer?
§ Mr. Renton
The hon. Member may recall what I told his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling). If the hon. Member wishes to leave his collection of cheese labels to the Geffrye museum, under clause 4 it is not at all difficult for him to do so with a trust or condition prohibiting or restricting disposal of the cheese labels. In the case of the Tate gallery, for example, the Bill specifically allows people making gifts to put conditions on them to prevent their being disposed of; in such circumstances, the trustees would be unable to dispose of them.
§ Mr. Banks
I want to know that my collection of cheese labels will be safeguarded for posterity and not, after the years that I have spent accumulating them, peeling them off little triangles of processed cheese, ending up at Christie's and being distributed to private buyers round the world; so I am delighted by that assurance. We are making some progress here.
Clause 3(4) lists the objects of the national portrait gallery, which include the commissioning of "portraits of eminent British persons". I would like to record the fact that I commissioned from Feliks Topolski a wonderful painting of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). I took it round in a taxi to the national portrait gallery and the snooty buggers refused it. Here I was, doing my best for the arts, and they refused it. It is a fine example of Topolski's work, and I hope that this little plug for it tonight will induce the trustees to accept a fine painting, not only by a fine artist but of a fine subject as well.
I turn to the matter of museum charges. The Minister really must understand this, because he did not understand it in the course of the various interventions when he was speaking. We on the Opposition Benches do not oppose charging for special exhibitions; that has gone on for many years and will continue under a Labour Government. But it seemed to us wrong to change the ethos, the philosophy, of our museums, which is free access for general admission, as opposed to special exhibitions.
1021 If the trustees are given adequate resources, there is no way that they would voluntarily impose a charging regime. That must be a fact, because so many people who run museums and art galleries have said so, both to me and to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central.
Charging is a bad move. It is no good saying that there has been no fall-off. There was an enormous fall-off in attendance immediately following the imposition of charges by museums. We cannot know who is not going, but we have to look round to see who is now unlikely to go. Many schools are no longer visiting museums, and many people who cannot afford even a modest admission charge will not go.
A charge is a disincentive. Museums and art galleries are a wonderful heritage. They were established by many far-sighted people to act as a source of inspiration and education for ordinary people. A charging regime deters those people from visiting. It is wrong, and I am glad to hear that those on our Front Bench, when in government, will make sure that no museum has to impose charges for general admission, even though we make exceptions for special exhibitions.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the chance to make a few comments. I will finish because I can see the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) straining at the leash, but I apologise for having to go off and see his colleague.
§ Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), like all the Opposition Members who have spoken, is strongly opposed to charges for general admission to museums. At the same time he, like those other Opposition Members, is in favour of greatly increased expenditure on museums and particularly on the acquisition of new works of art. Given the enthusiasm of the Labour party for taxation and its opposition to charges, perhaps we might get round this particular problem if museums were allowed to impose a small tax on visitors; the ideological opposition to charges might be dissolved by this semantic device.
The debate so far has been enriched by the contributions of two distinguished Ministers for the Arts, the present incumbent and my right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Sir R. Luce). One of their greatest contributions has been the encouragement of private sponsorship for the national collections which has gone up from £500,000 to more than £40 million. This is to be enormously welcomed.
I also very much welcome the contribution made by the Sainsbury family. I recently visited their new wing. I salute the contribution that has been made by the Clore family and I have recently visited the Turner gallery. But I do not believe that we can expect private munificence on this great scale to continue in the future. At the same time, however, there are exciting possibilities just ahead for the expansion of both the national gallery and, in particular, the Tate.
A few weeks ago the Secretary of State for the Environment called for suggestions on the future of Somerset house, once the civil servants begin to withdraw from that great building. In the public mind Somerset house has been associated for many decades with personal records. Perhaps it would be appropriate if the national portrait gallery were to occupy part of it in the future. 1022 The Sainsbury wing opened with an exhibition of the royal collection of paintings. The Queen's gallery at Buckingham palace has been a great success. The state apartments in Windsor castle are magnificent. Yet much of the royal collection is still not adequately housed and accessible to the public. It might be appropriate in the future if, under the auspices of the national gallery, part of the royal collection was on display in Somerset house.
My main concern is with the future of the Tate and, in particular, of the RAMC site which adjoins it on Millbank. Every time that I have driven past the site over the past decade, I have felt surprised that the Ministry of Defence continues to occupy it. I cannot believe that the RAMC, or indeed the Ministry as a whole, will continue to do so for the rest of the century. What will become of the site? Will yet another office block be built there? I feel that it has enormously exciting implications for the future of national collections and artistic life in the capital.
Yesterday, I received a letter from the director of the Tate gallery. The director wrote:The trustees of the Tate Gallery are still developing a strategy for their building plans. This is not a simple task as any new framework will determine the shape of the gallery well into the twenty-first century. They hope to complete an outline strategy by the autumn of 1992. However, it is already apparent … that they wish to renew the emphasis on the role of the Tate as the national gallery of British art, as well as of modern art … that this will require the permanent display of the nation's existing large holdings of several British artists and not just of Turner alone … that such displays might be devoted to Hogarth, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Blake, Constable, the pre-Raphaelites, Watts, Spencer, Moore, Nash, Sutherland, Nicholson, Hepworth, Bacon, Hockney, etc. … that such displays will require a significant addition to the present building … and that the natural location for this additional space would be across Atterbury street on the present RAMC site.
The director of the Tate went on to say:It would therefore make good sense for the Government to make a commitment to offer the first option on the RAMC site to the trustees of the Tate, when the site becomes available. An early commitment would allow the trustees to develop a plan which makes best use of available resources.I agree. I believe that the Government should make the Millbank site available to the Tate for development when the RAMC moves out of its splendid headquarters and mess: it could provide accommodation for a number of artistic and heritage organisations that are currently scattered around the country. What we do not need is just another office block. I am afraid, however, that if and when the site is handed over to the land salesmen in the Ministry of Defence, a great opportunity will be lost for ever.
We do not know when the RAMC will leave Millbank, but we do know that the Ministry of Defence will be selling substantial quantities of land in London in the not-too-distant future. I hope that the Office of Arts and Libraries will keep in touch with the MOD in regard to the cultural and heritage importance of a number of sites; the MOD's land administrators do not have a notable record when it comes to imaginative use of sites for heritage purposes.
I agree with those who have said that the core of the Bill is contained in clause 4. Opposition Members have expressed doubts about the limited flexibility that is being given to the trustees of the Tate and the national portrait gallery to make disposals from their collections in certain very restricted circumstances. I consider that the clause is drawn too narrowly: I should like the powers of trustees to dispose of certain works to be widened somewhat. 1023 According to some of this morning's newspapers, a great Holbein portrait is to be sold at Christie's on 15 April, along with a fine Canaletto and an equally fine Rembrandt. The pictures have been in historic houses for centuries—or, at least, for decades—but, as we know, pictures in such houses are coming on to the market in great quantities because of the current financial pressures: estate duty, taxes, inflation and falling farm incomes.
§ Mr. Fisher
Will the hon. Gentleman join me in expressing some disquiet about the fact that the owner of the pictures that he mentioned did not see fit even to discuss with any of the major galleries—the national gallery, for instance—the possibility of a private treaty sale? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it will be very sad if that becomes the norm? So far, what has distinguished the responsible behaviour of the great private owners from the behaviour of others is the fact that, when they have needed to dispose of works of art, they have first tried to negotiate a sale with national galleries. I hope that this unhappy precedent will not be followed.
§ Sir Philip Goodhart
I entirely agree. The practice of trying to negotiate with the great national galleries is wholly desirable. I do not know whether the owners of the three paintings that I mentioned have followed that procedure—I have seen no statement from them—but we are clearly faced with a continuing problem in regard to the availability of works which would be an important addition to the national collections. Even with the most generous financial provision and the most successful national lottery, there will still be financial shortfalls.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) was slightly critical of the new arrangements whereby the national gallery acquired two great pictures on the basis of instalment payments. It strikes me as quite sensible to adopt flexible financial arrangements for the acquisition of new pictures.
In the case of disposal, too, there is room for increased flexibility. I should like to see in clause 4 a provision enabling the national gallery, the Tate and the national portrait gallery to lease some of their pictures. Leasehold is an accepted practice in the property market, and I do not see why it should not become, to a certain extent, a practice in the art world as well. The Getty museum has enormous purchasing power. Why should not some of the national gallery's pictures that are not of prime importance and some of the Tate pictures that are not, and cannot be, on display be leased for a period of five, 10 or even 25 years to people who are anxious to acquire them? That could bring some new money in and allow the national gallery and the Tate to increase their powers of acquisition.
In a letter to The Independent, published today, the Minister, referring to the whole question of acquisition by the national collections and the export of works of art, says:My prime concern … is to see that important treasures from our heritage, passed on in the past from one generation to another, remain as far as possible in this country for the educational enjoyment of the millions of Britons who visit museums, galleries and historic houses.1024 That is a very laudable objective, which we should all support, but I do not believe that the rigidity of clause 4 will help the Minister to achieve it.
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
It is a pleasure for me to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart), who has contributed a number of original ideas on the subject of acquisition.
Clause 4 is a modest but worthwhile step in the right direction. The whole point of a work of art is that it should be enjoyed and perceived. It is utterly useless when locked up and stashed away in a cellar. A large proportion of the great museums to which the Bill refers keep a considerable number of their works of art below ground, or otherwise hidden from view, because there is no room to display them. Museums aim to increase their stock of works of art almost as an end in itself. That is wrong. We should move towards a situation in which it is considered quite normal for a museum either to lease works of art, as has been suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham, or even, in certain circumstances, to sell works for the purpose of financing other acquisitions.
I take the point that people making bequests want those things to remain in the museums, but it is open to those people to make such a stipulation in, say, a solicitor's letter or by some other means. In the case of some past acquisitions, those considerations do not necessarily apply and I do not see anything intrinsically wrong with a vastly overstocked museum selling 50 unwanted items to enable it to make one valuable and enormously desirable acquisition—something that it and its visitors would cherish and would very much want to see on display. I would rather have a work of art in a private house, where comparatively few people would see it, than have it locked away in the dark under a museum, where no one would see it.
I hope that we shall be able to move further in the direction indicated by clause 4 and that finance for acquisitions will be provided through a national lottery. This idea should have the support of the whole House. It certainly has the support of the vast majority of the members of my party. I was very pleased by the Minister's response to my intervention concerning the support that this concept has received from his predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Sir R. Luce), and many other Conservative Members. A national lottery could produce large sums of money for museum buildings. It would create additional money, and certainly ought not to detract from what is already provided. We should have three sources of public support for the arts: support through existing grants, which, with the very impressive record of the Government, has increased by 30 per cent. in real terms; support resulting from the enormous growth in business sponsorship, which has been wholly beneficial and ought not to be disparaged in any way; and support in the future, I hope, through a national lottery.
The Government's record in the arts is absolutely first class, and I believe that the country will support it in the next few weeks.
§ Mr. Fisher
This being a Bill which has general support from all corners of the House, we have had a wide-ranging and stimulating debate. In the context of a very sharp 1025 disagreement about the value of the Government's policy, there has been a surprising—refreshing, some might say —degree of cross-party support for a number of key points. I am delighted that the hon. Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn) and the hon. Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) agree with us about the question of charging. The hon. Member for Beckenham's detailed knowledge of the Turner bequest enlightened everybody and demonstrated that his daily visits to the Tate have been put to very good use indeed.
There is total cross-party regret at the fact that the right hon. Member for Shoreham (Sir R. Luce) may have made his last House of Commons speech on the arts. Members on both sides have paid him very deserved compliments for his parliamentary defence of the arts. He paid a very generous, but very correct, tribute to the people in the arts world —the administrators, the artists, the designers and the writers—who bring such distinction to this country and such enrichment to our communities and ourselves. I expect that our tribute will be echoed by those people, who know that during the right hon. Gentleman's five years they had a Minister who, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) said, struggled valiantly against the then Prime Minister's hostility. He deflected much of the pain from the arts world. Few holders of his office will be remembered with so much affection in that world, even if the people in it did not always agree with the right hon. Gentleman's judgment and his ability to dispense money. There was cross-party support for his remarks tonight.
There is also cross-party support for the fact that the Minister has dropped the indemnity clause. In this regard, however, there are still some areas of disagreement. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) said, it will be very important to see what replaces that clause. Let us hope that the Minister will avoid the need for another withdrawal. This time he should consult closely the galleries and museums concerned, and he should do so quickly, as hon. Members wish to proceed to the Committee stage and will want a reasonable period to consider the Government's suggested replacement. If the Minister has to balance the two, I hope that he will consult widely and carefully so that this time he gets it right.
There was also disagreement, to which we shall return in Committee, about gifts. In his very well argued and well-researched speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central laid particular emphasis on the contribution that people such as Sir Denis Mahon have made to the arts world and their enormous generosity as benefactors. My hon. Friend rightly fears that that generosity could be inhibited. The Minister should reconsider his advice. He thinks that the answer to the problem is for potential benefactors to consult their lawyer and enter into trust deeds to protect their gifts.
If the Minister had stopped for a moment to consider the implications of his remarks, he would have realised that what he was saying to them was, "In order to protect yourself against this Act of Parliament, you should take legal advice and enter into expensive legal trust deeds." It is nonsense for the Minister to recommend people to take legal advice to protect themselves against possible future eventualities. However, we shall return in Committee to the question of gifts. I hope that by then the Minister will also have had a chance to think again about the time that people should serve as trustees.
1026 The Minister knows that when the Bill is considered in Committee he will have to explain what exactly is the difference, in his view, between the national gallery, which he believes should not have powers of disposal, and the Tate gallery and the national portrait gallery. The Minister has had an easy ride today, but he knows that he faces a difficult job in Committee. He has given in to very persuasive advocacy by one gallery but not to the pleas that were made on behalf of the others. He has not treated them in an even-handed way. He may, however, explain that in his closing remarks.
In general, there is widespread support for these measures. We welcome them, as well as the right hon. Gentleman's role in their birth. He was very modest about his own contribution and paid tribute to the previous Minister for getting the Bill on the Floor of the House. The House knows, however, that we owe something to him for it. Although there is cross-party support for the Bill, the wider picture will continue to be fiercely argued and disputed on the Opposition side. I believe that we speak for most of the museums world and arts world. The Government's record over the last 12 years is a disgrace. [Interruption.] We need not argue about it any longer. The public will decide in a few weeks. I believe that they will agree with the Opposition that, although the Bill is a useful measure, the most useful thing that this Government could do would be to go and to leave the arts to a Government who care about them and are prepared to make a commitment to them.
§ Mr. Renton
It is a pleasant change for me to be able to agree for once with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) in the generous tribute that he paid to my very distinguished predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Sir R. Luce). My right hon. Friend has been my neighbour in West Sussex for many years and he is a personal friend. One of the great pleasures of taking on the arts job was to know that I was continuing down a path where he had set a very clear and fine record. I have always appreciated his advice and wisdom.
If this is to be the last occasion on which my right hon. Friend speaks on an arts subject in the House of Commons, all of us will be pleased that his connection with the arts is to continue, both as president of the Compass theatre—that well-known and successful touring company—and as president of the voluntary arts network. It will be a great pleasure to us all, therefore, that in one guise or another we shall continue to be reminded by my right hon. Friend of the proper way to do things in the arts world. I am glad that he has been here today. He was the progenitor of the Bill. I am pleased that at last we have found legislative time for it. I thank the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central for his help today on Second Reading. I am sure that he will continue to support the Bill in Committee.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham referred to the encouragement of travelling exhibitions. I can assure him that we continue to encourage the national museums and galleries to ensure that their holdings are as widely seen as possible throughout Britain. That is being encouraged in a number of ways, most particularly at outstations, as they are called—for example, the Tate of the north in Liverpool and, in future, the Tate of the west 1027 in St. Ives. The Tate of the north in Liverpool is holding a major exhibition of the paintings of Lucian Freud, many of which come from the Tate's own collection.
We also encourage the national museums and galleries to make major contributions to exhibitions in other local museums and galleries. The most recent example is the exhibition of design from the 1950s at Manchester, which I had the opportunity to see, many of the items for which were lent by the V and A. Above all, help is channelled all the time through the Museums and Galleries Commission and the area museums councils. As long as I have this ministerial job, I am determined to continue to encourage increased access to central national collections by means of exhibitions in local museums and galleries.
All of us will have been moved by the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn) and by the eloquence with which he spoke of the beauty and importance of the arts. The curator of Dudley art gallery will be amazed and delighted to find that my hon. Friend's telephone call to him today and the fact that he is to exhibit a Turner in his gallery next Monday has been commented on in the House of Commons this afternoon and that for ever it will find a place in Hansard. As he spoke, I was reminded of Turner's own words. His customary remark, following the sale of one of his paintings, was, "I've lost one of my children this week." I feel that that is a remark with which my hon. Friend can very much associate himself. Only yesterday evening I was at the Tate looking at the exhibition of Turner's works, "The Fourth Decade", in the Clore gallery, thanks very much to the sponsorship of Agfa. The exhibition contains some very delightful and interesting watercolours. I know that the members of the Clore family, particularly Sir Charles Clore's extremely generous daughter, Vivien Duffield, will have been very pleased to hear my hon. Friend's remarks about the Clore gallery.
As to the extremely interesting comments of another very old friend of mine, my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart), I thank him for his support for flexibility in both the disposal and acquisition arrangements. I agree with him. I suspect that we shall have to look at this question very carefully over the years. I was interested in what he said about clause 4 and the advantages of leasing. There are difficulties about leasing. It is labour intensive. It requires additional staff. That would need to be funded and the leasing arrangements would have to be closely monitored. I suspect that it would be better to look in more detail at the concept of outstations, to which I referred in my reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham.
As to my hon. Friend's point about the RAMC site, I am aware of his close interest in the site and of his correspondence with Mr. Nicholas Serota. I understand that there are no immediate plans to dispose of that site, but my office is in touch with the Ministry of Defence about a possible use for the site, should disposal of it ever be considered.
The interest in the arts of my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) is well known to hon. Members. He is probably the best pianist in the House. He has been a strong and good chairman of our Back-Bench committee for some time. I was pleased to receive his support for clause 4, the key clause. I know that he 1028 supports a national lottery as a potentially very useful source of money for the arts, in particular for the funding of capital projects. I see that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central is pointing to his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling). I have nothing to add to what I have already said to him. I have made my position absolutely clear. If he wishes to raise the matter in Committee he will be able to do so.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central emphasised that the office of trustee should be held for seven years, not five. I regard that as very much a Committee point. I think that five years is about right. It works for both sides and it is not out of the way for someone who has served for five years to be reappointed for another five years. It is not a point of great substance, but we can return to it in Committee.
I have greater difficulty on the issue of purchase grants. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central knows the arts world well enough to know that purchase is by no means the only way in which our great national galleries have been acquiring pictures in recent years. They have been helped by personal gifts and by the national heritage memorial fund, for which we have recently increased the funds available from £3 million to £12 million. They are helped by objects of art that come to them through acceptance in lieu. Since 1980, the national gallery, the Tate gallery and the national portrait gallery have acquired, through acceptance in lieu—it has nothing to do with their purchase grant—pictures with a market value of nearly £24 million. The price paid was just under £12 million.
Any gallery director would like his purchase grant to be increased. He would be crazy if he did not. It is his job to say that he would like more money from the Government, the local authority or the sponsor. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central knows that there are many other routes that the great galleries and museums have successfully used in recent years in order to acquire pictures, sculptures and other works of art.
As my hon. Friends have stressed throughout this short but interesting debate, our record of funding the arts has been enormously positive, not just our funding for the Arts Council, but in the very much larger sums of money that we are making available—for example, for the building and refurbishment projects in the national museums and galleries. We are making available £196 million over the next three years, more than £;60 million a year. That is much larger than the figure five or six years ago. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central should give us credit for that, but he finds it difficult to accept that there is any good in the extremely positive record of the Conservative Government. What are his alternatives? By and large, the Labour party would kill off the sponsorship goose, which is increasingly laying a larger and larger golden egg. That would be £40 million gone. The Labour party's policy on charging would make museums poorer and would interfere in their activities. That would be another £40 million gone. We have a fine arts record. By contrast, the Labour party has a purely destructive and negative record without any new ideas.
This is probably the last aria of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central before the final curtain falls. I remind him of the beautiful but sad words from "Macbeth": 1029
As he struts no more, the hon. Gentleman can take comfort from the fact that a new dinosaur gallery is opening in the natural history museum in April. I have no doubt that he will find himself one of the earliest acquisitions in that gallery.
- "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
- That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
- And then is heard no more".
I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).