HL Deb 30 June 1931 vol 81 cc473-4

Clause 1, page 1, line 16, at end insert ("or to lend any such objects (being pictures) for display in the official house of a British Ambassador or Minister in a foreign country")


My Lords, I have not heard of any opposition to this Amendment, and therefore I move that we agree with the Commons.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—(Lord Parmoor.)


My Lords, I should like, if I may, to say one or two words upon this Amendment. If I may humbly say so, it appears to be a rather fatuous suggestion. The proper decorations for our Embassies—I know a good many of them—are what might be called the loyal pictures, which decorate the dining rooms and drawing rooms very effectively. We do not want to lend bad pictures to our Embassies, and I should hesitate very much to send good pictures. One knows what Embassies are, and that they contain ordinary housemaids and ordinary footmen who know little about pictures. The Ambassador frequently changes and his goods are moved about. Possibly someone from the Office of Works occasionally visits the Embassy house, and then finds that a hole has been knocked in the face of a picture and is fastened with a bit of canvas at the back. Your Lordships know the state in which some of the pictures of foreign potentates are at present kept in some Embassies here.

The genesis of this particular Amendment is not unentertaining. It is, I understand, that there are four rather second-rate but decorative Poussins put aways in the cellars of the National Gallery. Sir Rennell Rodd, for whow I have very great respect, who used to be Ambassador in Rome, long wished to have those Poussins hanging up in the Embassy at Rome, perhaps for the reason that the Roman nobility decorate their palaces with Poussins. Possibly he thought it would be a good way of developing an entente with Italy. On that analogy, if one wished to have an entente with the Vatican, one might send a picture of Archbishop Cranmer being burnt at the stake. The remarkable thing about it all is how one descends from the particular to the general. An Ambassador wants four old pictures hung up in his Embassy, and in consequence we are to give the Trustees of the National Gallery the power of sending our best Gainsboroughs to Addis Abeba or to La Paz, over the sands of Africa or the mountains of South America. Is it worth inserting this curious Amendment? There are forty Embassies and Legations, I believe, of the British Government abroad. Is it suggested that we are to be allowed to send pictures to all those places? I really think that before passing this Amendment your Lordships might consider it.