§ [The references are to Bill No. (42).]
§ Clause 1, page 1, leave out lines 12 and 13.
§ LORD HANWORTH
My Lords, do I understand that the noble and learned Lord has moved that this House doth agree with the Commons Amendments? I thought the Motion that had been made was that this House should take into consideration the Commons Amendments. I did not understand Lord Parmoor to move that this House should agree with them.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I have known on various occasions the Motion made in the form either of disagreeing or agreeing, but as the noble Lord, Lord Hanworth, seems to prefer the form that I should move that we agree with the Commons Amendments I will certainly do so. Your Lordships will recollect that there was a considerable discussion on this Bill when it was before your Lordships' House. It was first introduced here and not into the House of Commons, and I think I am right in stating that the objection to the form of the Bill as introduced here was that there was too great a risk in the power we proposed to give to the Trustees of the National Gallery or the British Museum to send either pictures or other works of art of which they are trustees abroad for exhibition in a foreign country. I do not want to say that there is no risk. That is not the argument, to my mind. There may be some risk; but I suggest, as found by the Royal Commission, that it is practically negative, and there are considerations on the other side which are overwhelming.
When this matter came up in the House of Commons Committee these Amendments of your Lordships were disagreed to, in one case by 19 votes to 2, and in another case by 15 votes to 4. The Bill, as it was introduced had, I think, the full support of Sir Austen Chamberlain and a very large number of Conservative members in the other place, and after it had been before the Committee it was passed without any Division on Third Reading, and no further proceedings were taken in the direction which is now indicated.
What is really the position? I will be as brief as possible, for we have discussed this matter fully before. The main point was what we called reciprocity in dealing with other countries. We had the advantage of the Flemish Exhibition, we had the advantage of the Italian Exhibition, we had the advantage of the Persian Exhibition, and next year or in 1933—I forget which year it is—arrangements have been made for a very large exhibition of various forms of French art. I suggested before, and I suggest again now, that there is no reason why we should not give reciprocity in a matter of this kind. There is no reason why we should not be as generous to other countries as other 456 countries are to us. The only two public institutions concerned in this country are the National Gallery and the British Museum, no difficulty having been found in any other case. Courtesy towards other countries is becoming increasingly important from what I may call the point of view of international life and international co-operation.
So far as the Trustees of the National Gallery are concerned they were originally divided. I believe they are now. The noble Viscount, Lord Lee of Fare-ham, who is present, is Chairman of the Trustees of the National Gallery, and, unfortunately, I know that he is opposed to the proposal I am now making. Similarly, I think Lord Hanworth has not been converted from the position he took up in regard to the British Museum. There is only one other point to which I wish to refer, because this matter has been very fully discussed. In the Bill it is left to the discretion of the Trustees, and I cannot understand why trustees of the character of those of the National Gallery or the British Museum cannot be trusted in a matter of this sort to exercise their discretion. Of course, there are some pictures obviously that ought not to be lent, and some places to which pictures ought not to be sent, but all those are matters of organisation and administration, and do not touch the real principle. If your Lordships will look at the Bill you will see that it is not only that the Trustees have discretion, but that they may mike regulations. There seems to be some question as to how far those regulations could extend. I state my opinion when I say they go quite as far as the prohibitory words which are now proposed to be introduced into the Act of Parliament, but whether that is so or not, i f you have trustees of the eminent character of these trustees, and if you leave the matter to their discretion, not in particular cases but under the form of regulation, I think it is very difficult to see that the risk involved is of any real weight as against the advantages of courtesy and co-operation of an international character which we desire to do all we can to encourage.
I need not emphasise again that this Bill was based on the Report of a Royal Commission, and I have not heard that all sides were not heard before that Commission. It is within the terms of the 457 Royal Commission Report that this form of regulation should be made, and I suggest to your Lordships that that is quite sufficient to deal with the whole matter. I do not want to take up your Lordships' time unnecessarily. We shall certainly have to oppose any alteration of the Amendments introduces: by the House of Commons, and if we are defeated upon that the Bill will, of course, have to go back to another place for further consideration. I therefore move that we agree with the first of the Amendments introduced in the House of Commons. That really raises the point.
§ Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ LORD HANWORTH
My Lords, I beg to move the Motion that stands in my name, which is that we disagree with the Commons Amendment to leave out lines 12 and 13. Your Lordships have been good enough to listen to me upon this point as a member of the Standing Committee of the British Museum, a Committee to whom is entrusted the work of looking after the British Museum. There are general meetings of the Trustees held on two occasions during the year. Members of the Government, including the Lord President himself, are members of that body, but it is the Standing Committee to whom is entrusted the executive work, and it is as their representative and charged by them with the duty of presenting their views to your Lordships, that I beg leave to address your Lordships' House this afternoon.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, has made the speech which I expected he would make, because although we all deeply regret it he, unfortunately, was not present when the Bill was in Committee of your Lordships House, and when these two Amendments that have now been left out in another place were put in the Bill without any Division at all. I think after the speech of the noble and learned Lord, it would be convenient if I reminded your Lordships of the exact position, because I am not quite certain that it remains quite clear in Lord Parmoor's mind. The Report of the Royal Commission said that they thought it would be a good thing to have an Act enabling some of the great treasures of the British Museum and the National Gallery to be lent abroad— 458 subject to this, which is always omitted when any reference is made to the Royal Commission—under such precise and proper safeguards as may be determined by the authorities of each Institution.
§ LORD HANWORTH
Yes, but please will you listen a little further, because this is what you never quote:We do not think that the Act itself should attempt to define the class of objects which should be excluded from the purview of the Act, e.g., fragile objects, panel pictures, unique or type specimensand so on. That is what we have endeavoured to define. This is not an Amendment which is based upon any churlish disregard of the courtesy which has been paid to us by other nations. It is an endeavour to secure the views and to embody in the Bill views which require endorsement but which represent the best expert opinion in this country and I may say in the countries from which we have enjoyed the advantage of receiving pictures from abroad. As Lord Crawford told the House—and I can reinforce what he said because I have been in touch with expert opinion—not only experts in this country but experts in all countries are anxious that there should be this limitation, for the experience they have gained by sending their pictures overseas to this country has proved of such a nature that they do not wish a repetition of it in the future.
This Bill deals with the National Gallery and the British Museum. I am only qualified to speak with any knowledge of the British Museum. The British Museum is a wonderful storehouse of treasures, and it contains a great many of the objects which according to the Royal Commission ought to be excluded from the purview of the Act—fragile objects, panel pictures, unique or type specimens and the like. We have felt that it was very unfortunate to alter the terms on which they exercised their trust, for if pressure could be put through the Foreign Secretary and so transmitted to the Trustees they would be in a difficult position for resisting that pressure. The noble Viscount, Lord Grey of Fallodon, told your Lordships at his place at the Table that he felt it would be the duty of any Foreign Minister to transmit to the Trustees any request that might 459 be made, and speaking with all the experience and all the knowledge and all the force that he could command as an ex-Foreign Secretary, he advised your Lordships to accept these two Amendments which have been thrown out in another place.
The Second Reading of this Bill took place on December 16. It was adjourned after we had put our points and it adjourned after the Lord Chancellor had said this:I must say that I should like to have had the opportunity of putting my poor arguments and the good arguments of Lord Hanworth and the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, before the Government, and I should like to do so.We thereupon adjourned it, and the matter then came before this House again on January 28. Finally we allowed the Second Reading of the Bill on terms which were expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Grey of Fallodon, in the following words:I certainly trust that in the national interest, in the interest of these great national collections, these words will be eventually inserted in the Bill; and, of course, we must reserve the right as Trustees, while agreeing to a. Second Reading of the Bill this afternoon, to oppose it at any future stage unless these words are definitely put in the text of the Bill.Now the words he was speaking of are words which your Lordships will find in line 12 on page 1 of the Bill "being objects representative of British arts or crafts." Those words, as I told your Lordships, were chosen by the Standing Committee as imposing a limit upon the power of lending so that they should not be able to lend anything which was not of British art or craft. Of course, as your Lordships will see, it leaves open the possibility of some pictures of, say, the seventeenth or eighteenth century being sent abroad; and the words which were inserted and form line 13 "and produced subsequent to the year sixteen hundred" were words which were inserted in order to secure all those treasures which are of such a fragile nature and of such antiquity that they would be endangered even by a voyage to some neighbouring place like Paris. These words were inserted in the Committee stage and they were given a benevolent reception, in this House, I quite agree, by the representatives of the Government.
460 The matter then went to the House of Commons and there was a Second Reading debate. When the matter went before a Standing Committee I observe that a member of the House—the member for Stafford—who took a leading part in the Committee, obviously felt the importance, as the Royal Commission had before, of safeguarding these fragile and important antiques from any danger of being injured in transit. He expressed his view in this way:The Tate Gallery would not be affected"—he was speaking, I think, in favour of the Amendment as to the limit of the year 1600—because we have nothing there before 1600, but the National Gallery would be affected by this limitation, and I say emphatically as a Trustee that I would be carried out of the board room kicking rather than vote for lending the Wilton Diptych overseas, for the very good reason that it is a most delicate panel and a unique object of British medieval art.I should have thought some form of words to be inserted in this Bill, ought to be found, because it would be a sorry spectacle if any Trustee of the National Gallery had to be subjected to the treatment which he was prepared to suffer by way of resistance to any such loan.
Now, my Lords, when the matter went back to the House of Commons on Report it passed absolutely snub silentio. Not a single word was said on the Third Reading, and I confess I was a little surprised to think that no Trustee of the British Museum, no member of the Government—and there are many who are members of the General Committee—rose to put a point which had been accepted by your Lordships and which was undoubtedly deserving of consideration.
I am asking your Lordships to replace these words—any objects, being objects representative of British arts or crafts and produced subsequent to the year sixteen hundred.International courtesy has been mentioned to us over and over again. There is no difficulty whatever in sending something suitable within the limits imposed by those words, if it is right and proper so to do. International courtesy does not demand that we should eliminate these two lines, but it is of great importance that we should be able to safeguard the position, and not throw 461 upon the Trustees; and the Trustees only, the burden of responsibility for a negative. I do not refer to some of the observations that were made in the House of Commons as to the Trustees being a body which ought to he swept away if they did not do their duty, and so on. I pay no attention to those remarks; but when I look round the board room of the Standing Committee I cannot help thinking that any country would be glad to have the same expert opinion as we have in those who fire chosen by election to be members of that Committee by reason of their great knowledge, their great standing and their great position in the realm of letters and of art.
In moving that these words be reinserted, I do not do so in any dog-in-the-manger spirit but, in consonance with the Report of the Commission and with the observations made in the House of Commons, it is necessary that the Trustees should have some safeguarding words. I should like to repeat an experience of my own which I ventured to tell your Lordships. When such requests are made to the Master of the Rolls in reference to the documents which he has in his charge, I have in my own experience known that those who have transmitted these requests to me have been reassured to know that, under the Statute, there is no power whatever to lend them. That is a completely convincing answer to the sort of pressure that is likely to be used from outside.
Finally, I should like to read the words of Viscount Grey of Fallodon, who much regrets that he is not present here tonight. He puts the whole argument in a few sentences, and so cogently and consistently that I venture to read, as I am authorised to do, his letter. He writes:I am very sorry that I cannot be in London when the Museums Overseas Loans Bill comes before the House of Lords this week. Could I have been present I should, as a Trustee of the British Museum, have urged that these Amendments should be reinserted in the Bill. Unless they are in the Bill, the Trustees of the British Museum will be placed in an invidious position, and their power to keep our great and invaluable national possessions unimpaired and available to the public in London will be weakened. Unless these limiting and safeguarding Amendments are in the Bill, not only the Trustees of the British Museum but our Foreign Office may be exposed to very undesirable pressure, to the great detriment of the national collections.462We all agree that there should be power to lend objects that are of British origin and that illustrate British art for exhibition overseas; this is the fair and proper response to the willingness of foreign countries to let their own national works of art be shown in London. But to go beyond this, as the Bill without amendment would do, is uncalled for, unnecessary and dangerous. I am sure that any Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who cares for our great national collections must be glad to have some shelter and protection from embarrassing pressure to lend overseas our most valuable treasures. But of this protection he, as well as the Trustees of the British Museum, would be deprived if the Overseas Loans Bill is made law without the Amendments which we have proposed.I speak, as I say, on behalf of the British Museum and I speak as representing the Standing Committee, who feel that those treasures entrusted to them are imperilled if they are not safeguarded by the insertion of these words—words carefully chosen, and words which do not prevent a sufficient amount of international courtesy. May I remind the House of one more thing, and one only? Since this Bill was before the House, there has been a destructive fire at Munich. I think the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, would be able to give you a much better account of it than I can. I am informed, and I believe correctly, that in that fire were lost a great number of priceless treasures. Your Lordships will also have read only yesterday about the great fire at the French Colonial Exhibition at Vincennes, when the whole of the Netherlands Pavilion was destroyed by fire and something like £120,000 worth of treasures of various sorts were destroyed. It is stated that pictures and other treasures had been collected there. We prefer to safeguard such treasures under a control which eliminates any danger of fire, and we ask your Lordships once more to restore these lines to the Bill—lines not lightly chosen, and chosen on a ground on which I venture to suggest that we can confidently hope that your Lordships will see that there is use and purpose in them.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, my remarks will be very few, but I feel bound at once, as Chairman of the Standing Committee of the British Museum, to corroborate and enforce what has just been said by my noble friend Lord Hanworth. I understand that there are those here 463 who will be able to speak on behalf of the National Gallery, and I have no wish to prevent their having full time to press their point in the interest of that other great collection of our national treasures. You will acquit us, I am sure, in the British Museum of any desire in this matter to be merely insular and selfish. We press upon your Lordships the retention of the Bill as it stood simply out of a full sense of the great responsibility which has been entrusted to us as trustees of treasures that are unique and of priceless value.
It has been said and urged by the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House, that we can trust in this matter the discretion of the Trustees. I wish to press upon your Lordships that it is precisely from that discretion that the Trustees ask to be delivered. We know that in the past there have been occasions of political or semi-political pressure being brought to bear in favour of sending abroad some of these national possessions. Such pressure may very likely be repeated in the future. In any case it is an exceedingly difficult and distasteful thing for the Trustees to appear to be lacking in courtesy and consideration to the representatives of art and science in other countries. And yet the position is always this: that if objects of art or antiquity are of little value, they will not be asked for; they will be asked for only because they have some special significance and importance.
At present the Trustees are in a position in which they are protected either from pressure or from the appearance of discourtesy. There is no doubt it is beyond their power to lend these objects of art overseas. We are quite willing to make the exception embodied in these two lines in the Bill that the present prohibition against sending abroad should not extend to objects of British art and draftsmanship. There e re many reasons for that which were fully stated on the last occasion when this matter was before the House. It is enough to say that I have some reason to think that so far as reciprocity is concerned, if there was reciprocity in this matter as regards the Flemish, Italian and French works of art sent to this country, it would be welcomed and regarded as sufficient.
464 But in the case of the British Museum there is great importance in the other line, line 13, "produced subsequent to the year sixteen hundred" be cause if it were permissible for us to send abroad all objects of British art and craftsmanship, we might be asked to send the Bedford Book of Hours and the Luttrell Psalter, and many of the earliest printed books and bindings that we have in this country.
Therefore we feel that it is of the utmost importance that the onus of refusing to send abroad such priceless illustrations of British art and craftsmanship should not be laid upon the Trustees. Still more are they anxious to be protected against being requested, or having pressure brought to bear upon them to allow, even more valuable objects, such as our unique collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, to be sent overseas. On the last occasion it was urged that the dangers connected with this matter were negligible. Since the last discussion we have been reminded that the dangers are not negligible, but most real, by the two fires which have occurred in Paris and Munich. All we ask is that those to whom are committed treasures which are part of our English life and heritage should be protected, and we trust that your Lordships will be willing to respect the unanimous desire of the Trustees of the British Museum and give them this protection which they ask.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I am sorry that I cannot agree with the noble and learned Lord opposite. I do not think he is fully conscious of the case that we have put forward in favour of the Amendment inserted in this House. Lord Parmoor said that in his opinion the risk in sending these things abroad was practically negligible.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
Then I deny entirely what the Royal Commission said. So far from the risks being negligible they are recognised by every responsible curator of works of art in Europe and overseas, and since we last discussed this matter in this House two disasters have occurred which I beg your Lordships to take note of, because they have a definite bearing upon the issues with which we have to deal to-day. My noble friend below the gangway men- 465 tioned them briefly. May I develop them a little? Two or three days ago the whole of the pavilion erected in the exhibition at Paris by the Dutch Government was destroyed by fire, and in that conflagration perished the most valuable ethnographic collection sent by the Netherlands Government and others in Holland—the history in short of the native races over whom Holland exercises control in the Middle East. Yet Lord Parmoor complacently says the risks are negligible.
Let me refer again to the other disaster mentioned by Lord Hanworth, the fire at Munich, two or three weeks ago. In that fire practically the whole collection of German modern works of art was destroyed. The result has been that, a special effort having been made in that exhibition to illustrate the life work of great German painters, the whole of those men's life work has disappeared. It is a terrible tragedy, and yet Lord Parmoor is pleased to say that the risk is negligible. Lord Parmoor must not laugh at it. To those who feel as I do it is a tragedy. Those who occupy the position which I do feel that it would be a dereliction of duty if we did not press your Lordships to remain firm.
It is not only a matter of these sensational risks, but of the ordinary, humdrum, detrition from which works of art suffer by being moved to and fro. Every time a frail panel picture is taken off the wall it is subjected to vibration, and by that amount its vitality is diminished. In the National Gallery so much attention and care are given to pictures that when it is necessary to clean the surface of a picture, or to dust the glass, the whole of the glass can be removed and the work done without removing the picture from the wall. That is the care which is devoted to the pictures in the National Gallery. Yet it is said: Send these things abroad; submit them to changes of temperature; submit them to every risk of vibration, to shaking, to packing and unpacking, and to carelessness in removal. Yet every time that a picture suffers even in the smallest degree, by having for instance to lay down a blister, something of the original authentic work goes. It is only a hundred or a hundred and fifty years since collectors and Governments have begun 466 to realise that these fragile monuments of past genius ought to be protected for all time. Our duty is not merely to look after these things for to-day, but for succeeding generations. I look forward to Vandykes lasting not for a thousand years but for two thousand years, and that will be so if we look after them as we think it is proper we should look after them, and not send them gadding about the world.
We are told that our attitude is churlish and undignified. Personally, I do not bother much about my dignity. Let me put this to Lord Parmoor. I would much rather be accused of doing something churlish than of doing something selfish, and we are doing something selfish in this sense, that for our enjoyment, for the pleasure and study of this generation—of ourselves in fact—we are risking the privilege of future generations, because, for our own enjoyment—and a great enjoyment it is—we are having these international exhibitions here there and everywhere, but at the risk, I say, of injuring these works of art, and thereby diminishing the patrimony of those who are to follow us.
Personally I am very doubtful of the benefit of these exhibitions. The reaction upon the attendance at our own national exhibitions is very marked. I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, has studied the figures. While an exhibition is going on attendance increases, for instance during the Italian Exhibition. For the first three months last year attendance at the National Gallery increased, but as soon as the Italian Exhibition was over the attendance at the National Gallery fell well below the corresponding period of the previous year. The point is therefore worth considering, not whether these exhibitions benefit relatively few of us, who enjoy them immensely, but whether they really have an educational value for the public as a whole.
Lord Parmoor said that reciprocity was needed. I am quite ready to concede that. We have all through been prepared to meet the view of the Royal Commission to this extent, that we are ready in this limited form to organise and to send abroad representative collections of British works of art in order that the British genius shall be fully appreciated abroad. That is as far as it is necessary 467 to go. That is as much as any responsible curator on the Continent has ever suggested asking. I therefore most earnestly press your Lordships to maintain your position, and in doing so you will have the growing support of thoughtful and responsible people, not only in this country, but in countries all over the world, who wish this danger to these exhibitions to be checked, because they, as well as we, realise how serious are the risks involved.
§ VISCOUNT LEE OF FAREHAM
My Lords, perhaps I may be permitted to say a brief word on this occasion as a Trustee of the National Gallery, and to endorse everything that has been said by previous speakers and by the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, who preceded me, and who has pointed out with great force the appalling refutation of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor's, plea that the risk is negligible, by reason of the disasters which have occurred since we last discussed this matter. Those are disasters which have occurred within the last three weeks. Before that there was an almost monotonous series of disasters at foreign exhibitions. Apart from those, there is a case which I think has not been mentioned. We sent a representative exhibition of pictures to New Zealand last year, and the ship that was carrying them was wrecked, and every single picture in that collection was lost. These risks are so patent and so grave, that I cannot conceive how anyone who accepts the position of a Trustee of valuable national property can possibly, with any regard to his conscience, wantonly alter the law so as to increase these risks in the future. Is there to be no cessation to this feeding of the Moloch of dangerous exhibitions abroad? I do not want the Trustees to be put in the position of a member of another place, who said he would sooner be carried out kicking than accept the lending of a particular work of art. All I ask, and all that Lord Hanworth asks in his Amendment, is that the existing safeguards, which have proved so satisfactory in the past, should be reasonably maintained.
Too much play has been made, I think, with the accusation of churlishness, lack of courtesy, and so forth. Really, if I may suggest, this is not a case where we have to consider cutlet for cutlet, or "You scratch my picture and I'll scratch yours." 468 The issues are far too serious. It is undoubtedly the fact, as stated twice by the noble Viscount, Lord Grey of Fallodon, that the Foreign Office is itself exposed to pressure, which it is difficult to resist, and so it feels obliged to pass that pressure on to the various bodies concerned. At the present time it is no good the Foreign Office passing on the pressure either to the British Museum or the National Gallery because they are exempt under the law. But there is another institution, the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is not protected under the existing law, and I say with all due sense of responsibility that recently the hands of that body have been forced by Foreign Office pressure to lend objects which it was not considered desirable to lend. And so, if we go on, in time we may get a position where trustees will be appointed on political grounds in order to carry out the will of the Government of the day. I think it is most undesirable that we should go further. The most rev. Primate has stated the position correctly, that recently it has been intimated, semi-officially at any rate, by the Italian Government that they feel great anxiety that British art should be adequately represented at the forthcoming exhibition in Rome, and that they would be quite satisfied if an adequate representation of British art, and eighteenth century art in particular, was sent to that exhibition. They would regard it as a sufficient act of reciprocity. Then why should we be forced to go further?
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, mentioned in support of his argument the views expressed by Sir Austen Chamberlain in another place, but may I call his attention to the fact that Sir Austen Chamberlain on that occasion said:I attach so great an importance to the provisions of the Bill, even as restricted in another place and as it now comes before us, that I should be most reluctant to lose that which is contained in the Bill in its present form, if unable to convince those in another place that they may safely go back on the opinion they first expressed.And he added:I therefore attach enormous importance to obtaining even that restricted permission to lend abroad which is given by the Bill as it now stands.I submit that in face of that your Lordships would incur the gravest kind of 469 responsibility if you failed to accept the view put forward by Lord Hanworth. I certainly hope, if the Government do not see their way to accept it, here and now, that we shall go to a Division.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, there are two matters on which I would wish to reply, and particularly the matters mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Crawford. I recognise, of course, not only his knowledge in these matters, but his care for works of art, especially for such as we have in the National Gallery and the British Museum. But what I want to call his attention to, in the first place, is that the point whether this question would be better safeguarded by regulation or by strict legislative enactment was the very matter which was discussed and upon which opinion was expressed in the Report of the Royal Commission. For this very reason, if. I may take it at the outset, his argument goes to this extent as regards our invaluable British school: "Let it take any risks, never mind whether all our great Constables, Turners and other pictures are burned or not. Let them be burned." If he really thinks the risk is such—
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, I think the noble and learned Lord threw that in my teeth on an earlier occasion. It requires very little pressure on his part to make me vote against the Bill altogether, if that is the way he receives a concession.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I appreciate that. That is not the view the noble Earl has expressed this afternoon. The view he has expressed this afternoon is not against the Bill altogether; in fact we are not here upon that question to-day. The view he has expressed this afternoon is that risks, which are very real and very serious if they are not properly guarded against, may be run by our great English school. It was that distinction of less care for the English school which certainly struck me in what the noble Earl said. Let us see what the Royal Commission said upon this point. I do not profess to be an authority upon these matters, as the noble Earl is, but we all love our pictures. What the Royal Commission said was this—and I will ask Lord Hanworth's attention to it—We do not think that the Act itself should attempt to define the class of objects 470 which should be excluded from the purview of the Act, e.g., fragile objects, panel pictures, unique or type specimens, as we think such definition can be accomplished better by regulations promulgated and, if need be, modified from time to time by the governing authorities.Surely, it is rather a monstrous suggestion that in an Act of Parliament we are to put our pictures on one side and the pictures of foreign artists on another, on the ground that ours may be risked while we will take special care regarding the others. Surely, the proper view is that which is taken by the Royal Commission, to have proper care for all.
§ LORD HANWORTH
My Lords, if the noble and learned Lord refers to me, may I point out that there is considerable difference between a panel picture of great antiquity and a canvas of the eighteenth century?
§ LORD HANWORTH
Will the noble and learned Lord also observe what the Royal Commission said as regards the safeguards?
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, these self-evident propositions, if I may say so, are present to everyone's mind I think. What you cannot do is to have these large margins—for instance, everything after a certain date and nothing before that date which, as a matter of fact, comes about the year 1600 I think. You cannot do that, I think, because the result might be that you might be stopped from lending pictures which might perfectly well be lent without any danger of their being pictures which ought to be reserved, whatever the difference might be. Of course there is a difference between a canvas picture and a panel picture. No one denies that. What does the Royal Commission say upon that? It says:The desirability of such loans under proper safeguards"—you must have most distinct and settled safeguards—is especially apparent in the case of the British school of painting. We think that any necessary legislation should not be narrowly drawn so as to confine loans, therefore, to one category of objects.The only category of objects which we would allow under this Bill if we disagree with the Commons Amendments, are our pictures by our own great artists. That is what appeals to me and what I cannot appreciate. Of course I do not believe 471 that the risks are so great. No doubt particular cases have occurred, but I should hope that in neither of those cases would careful trustees have sent away the works or art of which they are trustees without proper investigation and consideration.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, how could we refuse the applications of the French Government or the German Government?
§ LORD PARMOOR
Let us consider what the noble Earl says. Supposing we lost the whole collection of our British pictures, it would be a terrible calamity. But why should we limit the risk to the artists of our own school? There is no reason whatever—absolutely no reason whatever. So far as these particular calamities are concerned, I admit that they ought to make more strict regulations in regard to matters that ought to be dealt with by regulations. That is not throwing a discretion upon the particular Trustees for the time being, but they act under regulations which may be made to fit all the conditions of safety which ought to be regarded, and which can be altered from time to time. So far from differing in one respect from the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, I more than agree with him. But it seems to me that to lay down this rough and ready line, if I may use the expression, which it is attempted to lay down in an Act of Parliament itself without any guidance, is really to run into danger—and certainly you make no provision against it—as regards our English pictures.
I do not propose to go over all the matters again. I thought that was not necessary when I was addressing your Lordships, but I urge those who are fond of art in this House not to derogate from the importance of our own pictures,
§ and not to put the care which is necessary in their case below that which is necessary in any other case whatever the conditions may be. I will not take up the time of your Lordships longer as the matter has been very fully discussed. We shall have to support the Amendments introduced by the House of Commons, and, as I should have thought, on the ground that they are absolutely necessary if you are to take true and proper precautions regarding our own works from the National Gallery and the British Museum, whether they originate from artists of this country or not.
My Lords, as I was responsible for the original Amendment, I might say one word in regard to this matter. There is nothing sacrosanct, of course, about the date 1600, but it was taken as a more or less fair division between things that were really historic and unique and things that became more common. That is the reason for that. The noble and learned Lord asked why let the Constables and Gainsboroughs go and keep the others? The answer is a very simple one. There are dozens of Gainsboroughs and Constables, but there is only one Wilton Diptych. The third point to which he alluded was the regulations. The whole point is that if the export or the lending is to be governed by regulations, the regulations have to be made by the Trustees; and the Trustees at any time can he urged to vary the regulations which, I imagine, is what they would not wish to be asked to do. If it is laid down by Act of Parliament, then the Trustees cannot vary the regulations.
§ On Question, Whether the Motion hall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 10; Not-Contents, 53.473
|Sankey, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Amnlree, L.||Noel-Buxton, L.|
|Arnold, L.||Passfleld, L.|
|Parmoor, L. (L. President.)||Dickinson, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Marley, L. [Teller.]||Snell, L. [Teller.]|
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Lansdowne, M.||Buxton, E.|
|Linlithgow, M.||Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)|
|Argyll, D.||Normanby, M.|
|Rutland, D.||Reading, M.||Ilchester, E.|
|Midleton, E.||Lee of Fareham, V.||Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L.|
|Minto, E.||Mersev, V.||Jessel, L.|
|Peel, E.||Ullswator, V.||Lamington, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Lugard, L.|
|Radnor, E.||Southwark, L. Bp.||Northbourne, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Phillimore, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Annaly, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Ashton of Hyde, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Auckland, L.||Sinlair, L.|
|Banbury of Southam, L. [Teller.]||Stanmore, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Stonehaven, L.|
|Burnham, V.||Denman, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Churchill, V.||Faringdon, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Hailsham, V.||Hampton, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Hood, V.||Hanworth, L. [Teller.]||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
On Question, Motion agreed to.