HC Deb 05 February 1996 vol 271 c10
9. Mr. Cohen

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if she will undertake a survey into insurance arrangements concerning displays of art in public buildings. [11766]

Mr. Sproat

Although I have no plans to undertake a survey of insurance arrangements as such, I shall consider this important matter as part of the Department's review of all aspects of its policies on museums.

Mr. Cohen

I hope that the Minister will conduct a specific review of the problem with insurance. A gallery approached me with the offer to exhibit quality paintings in my local town hall, but when I approached the chief executive, he said that, although he would love to display the paintings, he knew, since it was not the first time that it had happened, that he could not because the insurance costs were prohibitive. Does the Minister agree that much more art could be displayed in our town halls and public buildings if insurance costs were not so prohibitive? Will he conduct a review with the aim of getting more art on display?

Mr. Sproat

I know the attention that the hon. Gentleman has paid to the Crane Kalman gallery and the display of paintings by Alan Lowndes, and very much support what he has tried to do. I understand, however, that the council did not apply to have the Government indemnity scheme applied to it, which, in principle, it could have done. If objects are on loan for public benefit, councils may qualify for the benefits of the Government indemnity scheme. The hon. Gentleman's local authority may care to consider that. I shall, however, certainly consider the matter in my museums review.

Mr. Jessel

Should such insurance not be a matter for the occupants of buildings rather than the Government? Is the hon. Gentleman's question yet another example of the Labour party's insatiable appetite for interference and the desire to have a finger in every pie?

Mr. Sproat

The current state of play is indeed that local authorities can take out commercial insurance if they so wish, or apply for the Government indemnity scheme. Both are available to my hon. Friend's local authority.