HC Deb 14 June 1993 vol 226 c628
12. Mr. Carrington

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what measures he is taking to ensure the retention of Britain's fine arts heritage in this country.

The Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Peter Brooke)

The Waverley system of export controls, grants to national museums and galleries, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and several capital tax concessions encourage the retention of Britain's fine arts heritage.

Mr. Carrington

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that the Waverley rules still allow too many examples of our national heritage to leave these shores? Will he consider tightening up those rules to ensure that more funds are available for retaining our prized fine arts heritage and that galleries are given more time to raise the money necessary to retain them?

Mr. Brooke

I do not think that I would take the view that there was a failing in the Waverley rules, which are responsible for particular items being considered under export licence, but I understand the concern of a number of people about the amount of funds available to meet some of the appeals which consequently arise. In the past five years, just under half the applications that have been made have been refused and the item concerned retained in this country.

Dr. Howells

Does the Secretary of State agree also that some of the money that is required to retain some great works of art in the country might be found if fewer fat salaries were paid to the culture vultures who run the administration of the arts in Britain, and the arts councils in particular?

Mr. Brooke

The accounting behind that question must necessarily be somewhat indirect, in that the Arts Council of Great Britain is not responsible for funding applications under the Waverley rules, but the Government have recently employed consultants to review the Arts Council.

Mr. Cormack

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the system can work satisfactorily only if the in-lieu system works satisfactorily? In that context, has he seen the article in today's issue of The Daily Telegraph by Mr. Godfrey Barker, which speculates about the future of the Museums and Galleries Commission? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the commission will not be wound up, as it is not populated by fat cats receiving large salaries, to quote the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells)?

Mr. Brooke

I have seen the article to which my hon. Friend refers. I can give him a categorical assurance that there is no intention of winding up the Museums and Galleries Commission.

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