§ LORD CONWAY OF ALLINGTON rose to call attention to the present situation of the Imperial War Museum; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I desire to call your attention to a subject which at first sight may not seem to be very important, but which, I think, as time goes on will prove itself to have been of very great importance indeed. The Imperial War Museum was founded in 1917 by the War Cabinet on the initiative of the first Lord Melchett, who was then Sir Alfred Mond. I was appointed Director-General, and we set to work with the assistance of my valued colleague Mr. ffoulkes. We had two rooms and one typist, and that was all. The collections were made very vigorously and a sufficient number of objects was brought together so that we were enabled to exhibit a large body of material in the Crystal Palace. The War Museum in that, its first, stage was opened by His Majesty the King in July, 1920. For four years the collection was kept in the Crystal Palace, increasing all the time, but in 1924 we moved to South Kensington into some galleries which had been vacated by the Science Museum, and we took a house in Queen's Gate, and there we have lived ever since.
§ The Museum Commission, which examined the position of our Museum amongst all the others, recommended, as our accommodation in these galleries at South Kensington could only be temporary, that more permanent quarters should be found. I should, perhaps, say that half the long gallery that we occupy is, I think, earmarked for the extension 152 of the Science Museum, and the other half is leasehold, and the lease expires in about seven years from now, so that it will be necessary then, as indeed it is necessary now, to find permanent quarters for the Museum. When we had reached that point, Lord Rothermere generously came in and bought the site of Bethlem Hospital and the surrounding grounds. That hospital having been moved into the country, and its old building being derelict, an Act of Parliament then passed contained a provision that this generous gift of Lord Rothermere's, the purchase of this large open space and the buildings on it, should go to the London County Council, the buildings to be pulled down and the open space thus created made into a playground for children.
§ All that had happened before I had any cognisance of what was intended to be done with the buildings of Bethlem, but it occurred to me that there was exactly the building that we wanted for the Imperial War Museum, and when I put the point to Lord Rothermere he cordially agreed, but, as an Act of Parliament had already been passed deciding that the buildings should be pulled down, it was necessary to pass another Act to maintain them standing, and to provide that the War Museum should move into them. I ought to say, as a great many people do not know where Bethlem Hospital was, that it is exactly a quarter of an hour's walk from this building towards Westminster Bridge and close to Waterloo Station. It is a fine building, really quite a noble building, with a great portico, a distinguished dome, and two great wings added to it for the accommodation of lunatics no longer required. I do not think that a lunatic asylum is at all a bad place for a War Museum myself. This particular building can be made to contain our collection admirably, and we shall preserve from destruction quite a fine building which otherwise would disappear.
§ Let me briefly describe the contents of our Museum. First of all, of course, there are guns and weapons of offence which naturally find place in such a museum, but far more striking and far more interesting is our art collection. We have no fewer than 5,000 paintings and other works of art, which are of extraordinary interest for this reason. They were all 153 painted during the course of the War, for the most part by artists who had actually been to the front. There is not a single constructive war picture amongst the lot. The ordinary war picture of previous generations has in the main been constructive, the artist inventing all the figures and everything else—an entire invention. There is not a single war picture that I know of up till quite recent times that was veraciously painted by an artist who actually was present at the scene he was depicting. We owe all the initiation of that important collection, about which I shall say a word presently, to Lord Beaverbrook. Lord Beaverbrook was Minister of Information at that time, and he set on foot the painting of an important series of pictures by first-rate artists, his idea being that somewhere there would be a memorial hall, or something of that kind, built after the War and that those pictures would find a place in it. That memorial hall did not materialise, but the pictures that he caused to be painted to that end were the foundations of our collection.
§ I do not know how many of your Lordships may have been inside the galleries of the War Museum. I dare say a good many of your Lordships do not know even where it is. I might just interpose that the galleries which it occupies are adjacent to the Imperial Institute at South Kensington. They are very unsuited for our purpose but there they are. There is one long gallery down below and another long gallery on the first floor, and the first floor gallery is entirely a gallery of paintings. There is a whole room full of paintings by Orpen, another room of paintings by Lavery with a great picture by Sargent, the largest we have. And there are numbers of drawings by Muirhead Bone, who, by the by, published a number of etchings during the War the profits of which he gave to us for the purchase of pictures by other artists than himself. It was a most generous gesture. He not only abandoned any profit to himself that there might have been in his very beautiful work, but he caused money to be spent on purchasing works of art by other artists who were less able to forego profit than he was. We have a quantity of drawings, and, indeed, there is hardly an artist of any distinction working at that time who is 154 not represented in the Imperial War Museum.
§ And what is the result? The result is that for the first time in history you have a collection of works of art which incorporates and expresses the mood of the people. It follows the action of the War at the front, but it incorporates and expresses the mood of the people at home, and that is really a unique thing. There is nowhere in the world any other collection of paintings that expresses the mood of the people in that way. You have to go back to the days of Phidias and the Parthenon in the great days of Athens to find works of art expressing as these do the passion and the mood of the people. We have not exactly produced works comparable to those of Phidias, but we have very fine pictures indeed. As time goes on and change takes place in public taste and new artistic ideas arise, this compact group of works, depicting as I say the mood of the people in the most critical period in the history of the world, is bound to be of the highest possible interest and importance.
§ Then, in addition to these five thousand paintings, drawings, etchings and so on, we have 250,000 photographs, many of them unique and all together of the greatest possible illustrative value. We have 150,000 negatives taken during the war and in addition to those we have had recently handed over to us the photographs taken by, and belonging to, the Air Force. Fifty thousand of these come within our care. We also have to look after the films that were officially taken during the War and, though these are preserved by the Stationery Office, the administration of everything connected with them falls to our share. We have also a library at present of over 60,000 books dealing with the War and these are largely used by students who are engaged in writing books or papers in connection with the War. Then we have a very large number of maps, both of our own and the enemy's product; we have as far as possible a complete set of them. We sell to the public some 6,000 photographic prints annually which yield some profit that we do not get. Further, we have a vast collection of stamps, coinage, bank notes of different denominations—all of which were brought together under the guidance of Professor Oman—and also medals. Besides that we 155 have a large number of beautiful little models of women at work. All kinds of women's work is represented by models, many of them of a very fine and beautiful character, and all produced by sculptors of repute. Women's work is also represented in a number of other ways which I will not detail but which you can easily imagine.
§ Another important matter to which I would ask your Lordships' attention for a moment is that this is the only institution in the world that contains a fairly complete representation of the development of aircraft during the War. Probably in the distant future, when the memories of men have ceased to trouble themselves much about the doings, the events, the toils and the wars of our day, the thing that will stand out will be that during those four or five years victory over the air was practically accomplished. One of the greatest changes that has taken place in the history of the world was that which was brought about when aircraft were developed and the air was conquered. The whole history of the conquest of the air and of the development of the air engine we, and we alone, can show. Specialists come from all over the world to examine our aircraft collection. There are a certain number of complete aeroplanes, but it is the air engine of which I am speaking at the present moment. Finally, we have a large number of models of ships of war of one kind and another, camouflaged ships and so on, and it is with difficulty that we can show them, because they are extremely delicate things. Some of these marine models are so delicate that one hardly dare lift them, and yet they are so closely packed in our narrow space that the gangways in many places are not more than two feet wide.
§ Our space is so crowded that we cannot show numbers of the most interesting things we possess. They have to be kept in store, and the things which we are able to show are so crowded together that it is with difficulty the student can examine many of these really fine things. The air exhibit, most of which we cannot show, has been temporarily sent to the Royal Air Force depot at Cardington. It is highly desirable that it should be brought together and made part of a single exhibition. The naval exhibit is also very insufficiently shown. I have 156 spoken about the closeness with which the ship models are packed together, and that is true also of the whole of the naval exhibit, which is very incompletely shown. Unless we get a little more room we shall never be able to exhibit it properly.
§ Let me call your Lordships' attention now to the popularity of this Imperial War Museum. Since it was opened by the King in the Crystal Palace it has been visited by upwards of 4,500,000 people. That is practically a record for any such exhibition. The average attendance is about 800 daily on week-days and 1,300 on Sundays, but on special occasions such as bank holidays those figures are enormously increased. On Easter Monday last year we had 13,800 people in the museum and on Easter Monday this year we had 14,000. On Whit Monday this year we had 16,000 people. These numbers are greater than those for any other Government Museum in London with the single exception of the science Museum. That Museum, just on the other side of the road, alone surpasses us. We easily out-top the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum and the National Gallery. There is not one, with the exception of the Science Museum, which is so attractive to the general public.
§ Now comes the question of money. Thus far, since we have obtained the possession of the Bethlem Hospital abandoned building, £5,750 has been spent in certain necessary adjustments. We had to knock down two wings of the building, the two ends had to be blocked up with walls, a few back entrances made and rights of way considered, and the whole thing has cost £5,750. To move us across the river to Bethlem will be a two years' job costing a little over £50,000. That is all we have to spend. On the other side we save the rent in Queen's Gate where our library is kept—£1,000 a year—which, if you concentrate it into a capital sum, is not much more than what we are asking the Government to spend on our removal.
§ I wish to ask your Lordships to consider that this Museum had to be created from the ground up. The other museums of the country have had decades or longer periods of slow and continuous growth, and it has been the business of the staff 157 to assimilate small driblets of annual accretions. We have had to start from the very bottom. We started with two rooms and a typist. I have been technically Director-General of this Museum, but the work has been done by a most, efficient arid self-denying staff and more especially by my colleague and secretary, the Curator of the Museum, Major ffoulkes. He has been practically responsible for the whole of the work. His initiative has always been of the most valuable kind. As Director of die Tower Armouries he obtained great experience and those of you who go to the armouries now and went there a few years ago will easily understand how efficient he is by the enormous change he has made in that collection. Eight from the start he has created, arranged and ordered this great collection of interesting and valuable objects; it has really been his work, and I make no claim whatever to any credit for anything that has been done. What has been done has been done entirely by him and I have been only too delighted to hack and support him.
§ Now we come to the tragedy of our situation and that is that in the nature of things, in the progress of time, not only Major ffoulkes, but one or two others of our most efficient staff, will unfortunately be superannuated. Now I cannot conceive of moving this enormous number of heavy objects across London and putting them up again in a new building without his assistance. I think it is absolutely essential that he should be employed and that he should have the work of moving before he is superannuated. No doubt the Government would extend his period of activity for a year or two, but that is not exactly the thing. Some people as they get older get tired and you had better utilise them while they are vigorous and full of interest, initiative and originality. That is really the reason that drives me to urge on the Government that they should give us the relatively small sum that is necessary to move ourselves into new and final quarters before our foundation staff is dispersed.
§ When we are installed in the evacuated building of Bethlem Hospital we shall have a building that will suit us perfectly well. It will be the only public museum on the south side of the Thames, and its art collection will appeal even 158 where people like myself, with no engineering knowledge, fail to find considerable interest in weapons and other machines. These works of art, the beautiful pictures, and the other things which can be seen in the print room, will rind a home just where there is a vast population at present without any kind of museum to interest them in their immediate neighbourhood, and I feel quite sure we shall have a great many more visitors the moment we are planted in the midst of a densely populated part of London.
§ That we should move is imperative. I cannot believe that any one will deny it who looks into the condition in which we are and realises that this museum is not merely interesting to our own folks, but is of enormous interest to foreigners, amongst others to a great many Germans. They come and are not hurt. We have not made any jingo glorification about our arrangements. We have tried to produce a collection, an institution, which shall be of impartial historical value, just as the historians of the present day go on writing about the Napoleonic Wars. Supposing there had been any such museum as that which we now possess in relation to the last War which similarly incorporated the activities of the Napoleonic Wars, you can imagine the enormous interest there would be in it now and how much greater the interest would be five hundred years hence. If we keep our collection together in proper condition and preserve it so housed and arranged that it will safely endure for five hundred years and upwards, we shall leave posterity a very valuable object indeed. It is for that reason, amongst others, that I have tried to call your Lordships' attention to the problem which faces me individually so closely. I therefore beg to move.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, it is very difficult for me really to add anything to the case which has just been put before you by Lord Conway with such extraordinary ability. He has covered most of the ground, but, my particular interest in the War Museum—of course, I am interested as a member of the Board of Trustees—is from the point of view of the Navy. The present accommodation of the War Museum is such that the naval side of it is most inadequately dealt with. It is inadequately dealt with entirely from lack 159 of space. Lord Conway has stated that in some cases the gangway between the exhibits is only two feet. That is perfectly true, and it gives rise to a position of considerable public danger. Lord Conway told your Lordships how, on Whir. Monday last, some 10,000 people passed through the galleries. The galleries were so packed that one of the attendants took twenty minutes to get from one end of one of the galleries to the other. Your Lordships can easily imagine what would have happened supposing there had been an outbreak of fire or a sudden panic, and therefore you will see that it is imperative that more space should be allocated.
You have heard how the air section is at present altogether excluded. It is a very great pity, because the Air Force co-operated with both the Navy and the Army throughout the War, and some of the air exhibits, from the naval point of view, are of very great interest. One of the air exhibits under the care of the War Museum is the seaplane that flew at the Battle of Jutland, and was the first seaplane in history to go into action during a naval battle, and it is therefore of great interest. I could enlarge upon other exhibits, as, for instance, those of women's work, and so on; but what I think will appeal to your Lordships are the keenness of the public, the amount of interest that they display, and the sort of feeling that everyone must have: Is this Museum worth while or not?
That is best judged from the public point of view. Lord Conway has given figures of the attendance at the War Museum. I have questioned many of the staff with regard to the public who come to the Museum, and as to how they really treat the occasion. One member of the staff told me that he has many times seen parties of people come into the Museum as they might go to any other cheap show on a public holiday, enjoying themselves, laughing and talking. Yet, immediately they enter the Museum, they are gripped with tremendous interest, and as they progress through the galleries they become gradually more and more quiet and more and more impressed with what they see, until in the end they go out in a manner quite the reverse of that in which they entered.
160 This exhibition does not exist for the glorification of war, although some people may take that view. It constitutes in itself, and by reason of the completeness of the collection, a memorial of the gigantic sacrifice of the people. Lord Conway mentioned the interest taken by foreigners, and notably by Germans, in the collection. The Germans have even contributed to it voluntarily, and have sent us photographs of great interest. I have here by my side a letter from an Admiral, the commander of an Italian training ship, and he says:Please allow me to express my warm thanks for the extreme kindness shown in escorting the officers and cadets under my command round the Museum. The visit proved a most interesting and instructive one, and greatly added to the enjoyment of the Division during their stay in Gravesend.I have also a letter from a lady, and I think a passage from that will be of interest. She says:I would like to congratulate the staff at the Museum on the way it is conducted. Everything was so beautifully clean and the brass work on the guns and elsewhere all polished and shining. It gave me great pleasure to find everything so well cared for, and I shall most certainly pay another visit when next I visit London.That comes from a lady who lives in Westmorland. I could read other letters, but I will not detain your Lordships. It is, however, of interest to note that we have not had in the War Museum a single expression from anybody that this Museum was a thing which had better be put an end to. Far from that, the public interest in this Museum is very great, and there is no doubt that this collection is quite unrivalled.
Lord Conway has spoken of Bethlem Hospital. It must either be occupied or pulled down. It cannot wait. Two wings have already been pulled down and it forms, in fact, a sort of architectural skeleton at the moment. It is a building of considerable architectural interest, I am informed—I am not an expert in architecture—and it is quite certain that what is left of the present building is suffering from the weather, through being left open at the ends, so that the London County Council cannot be expected to allow it to remain in its present condition, an eyesore. Therefore I suggest that you have sufficient reasons for transferring the collection to 161 Bethlem. First of all the present building will have to be occupied or pulled down. Secondly, the Museum must be evacuated in four years' time, the building, I understand, being required for the Science Museum. Thirdly, the present Museum is not too safe from the public point of view, having regard to the large crowds and the very limited space. Fourthly, the exhibits cannot properly be shown where they are at present. Therefore, I think, we have a ease fur submitting to the Government that this collection, this memorial of a gigantic sacrifice, should receive attention even in these very difficult times.
The expenditure involved is stated to be about£ 50,000, but I understand this is not an entirely out-of-pocket expenditure. There is a revenue from the Museum. There are royalties from cinema films, and about £ 900 a year from the sale of photographs. To a certain extent, therefore, it does make a certain amount of money. The present accommodation is more expensive than it really ought to be, and I do hope that even in these very difficult times—and I assure your Lordships I would indeed hesitate long before I would urge the Government to spend money at such a time—I do feel that this is a case of urgency. For that reason I venture to support the noble Lord, and I do hope that your Lordships will not forget the extraordinary public interest, as evidenced by the attendance in the Museum, which is undoubtedly taken in it everywhere up and down the country.
§ LORD MELCHETT
My Lords, the ease that has been made by my noble friends Lord Conway and Lord Howe is so complete that it is hardly necessary to add anything to it in order to convince your Lordships of the real urgency and importance of moving the contents of the War Museum to a more suitable place. But I feel that I can hardly be silent on this occasion, not only as a member of the Board of Trustees but because the Museum was initiated by my predecessor, and, I remember at that time very clearly the big schemes that we discussed and the ideas that then held men's minds on the subject of the War and the War Museum. It is really very curious to think back and to see the little interest that this question now arouses among people. At that time the 162 whole nation was completely immersed in considerations of that sort, and the plan was to create a vast building, a fine piece of architecture, on the other side of the river opposite these Houses of Parliament, and there to lodge this great Museum as a national War Memorial. I still believe that that is what ought to be done, and that it is the best scheme. But it is not likely to be achieved, and therefore there is not much point in pursuing that line of thought.
It seems a small thing, as an alternative to that, to provide decent housing for these various historical assets of the country. I can remember very well travelling through the battlefields during the War, with Lord Conway and my father, when this scheme was originally planned, and then trying to conceive what was the proper thing to do and the best way in which a memorial for the nation could be created. It is curious to turn back and think of the shell-holes of Passchendaele, the wastes of the Somme and the plank road that led up to Ypres, all of which we knew so well at the time, and many members of this House knew too, and to realise that it took about as long to cover that territory then as one takes to-day in going from London to Brussels. All these things will be obscured, and men's minds will be obscured in the same way. The one place where you can go and recapture the thoughts that dwelt in people's minds at that time, and recapture the spirit which gripped the nation then, is the War Museum, among the interesting things which have been preserved there.
It is not a, question of whether this is a pro- or anti-war museum: that does not arise. At that period the men who were concerned in fighting had the feeling of comradeship which only battle brings, and that comradeship was enjoyed by millions of the citizens of this country. It was a spirit which unfortunately has since been lost, and which exists no more. Possibly future generations will be able to recapture it. All that we can do at the present time is to make certain that anything which can contribute to the recapture of that spirit shall be most carefully preserved as a national asset of real importance. Whether the result of that will be against 163 war or in favour of war it is not for us to deal with. But that spirit was a fine thing, and everything that can conduce to preserving the memory of it should be done. It is a national asset of great importance, not so much to us as for the benefit of future generations. I feel certain, therefore, that this House will approve and will press the Government to do something, to act at once, in order that this Museum shall be properly laid out and properly arranged, and that we shall run no danger of losing these valuable historic memorials which are preserved in it.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
My Lords, perhaps I might be allowed, as an old soldier, to raise my voice in support of Lord Conway in his appeal for help in this matter from those in authority. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has rightly referred to the great value that there is in keeping the records of the terrain and the condition of the country as it was during the War. Anyone who took part in that great conflict who now goes round his old haunts in those battlefields of Europe, or even anyone who went there after the Armistice, can realise at once how everything is changed. A visitor to the battlefields to-day can have no conception of the desolation, of the dreariness, of the terribleness of war when the actual events which are commemorated in this Museum were taking place. Therefore these pictures and drawings and other representations of our men in the battlefields are all of exceeding interest to the rising generation. We know from the figures given that millions of people have visited this Museum, and surely it is one of the finest ways in which to depict what our people went through, for the benefit of the younger generation who have had no touch with those horrible events. It is a wonderful way to bring home to them the great disaster that meets any nation that goes to war in these days.
We used to say that it was very much quicker to teach the British individual through the eye than through the brain, and I think it is perfectly true that the man in the street and the women in the street pick up a thing much more quickly through the eye than through the brain. The great value of this Museum is that such people can go and see the kind of things that their forbears had to go 164 through. There is also the question of the great historic value of these monuments. Unfortunately, past wars were not recorded as this one has been. This War afforded a great opportunity. It was a stationary war, a war of trenches, and it was a war in many theatres. Therefore we have a greater chance, especially by means of pictures, photographs, and drawings, of getting a real representation of the events that took place. It seems to me that the small expenditure demanded to provide a really suitable building for this exhibition is well worth while. It is well worth while from a historical point of view, from a national point of view, from an educational point of view, and, if I may say so, from the point of view of commemorating those who have gone.
We have heard from the noble Earl, Lord Howe, that the Navy is not suitably represented, largely because there is no room to depict the various ships and things, the models of which are there in store. I think it is very necessary and very valuable to have all three arms of the Service well represented in that Museum, to show the co-operation that existed during all that time of great effort. The actual money expenditure involved is small, and I am satisfied that the public would be only too willing to pay and to make this Museum really self-supporting. I cannot understand why museums in this country do not make a small charge of a penny, or even two-pence for admission to their galleries. Many of those who go to these museums certainly spend that on an omnibus to get there, and therefore it would be quite a small charge to make towards the expenditure on upkeep and supervision. I only make that suggestion because I think it would be a good thing if we did make a small charge. At any rate, I think a case has been made out by Lord Conway and the noble Lords who spoke after him, and that this matter really ought to receive the consideration of those in authority. I can assure the Government that money spent in that direction would not be wasted money. There is another aspect of it also, and that is that by doing this now we should create work at a time when we want to create work—work, moreover, which is useful and of national importance. I join my voice in hoping that some notice will be taken of 165 the matter which has been brought before the House by the noble Lord, Lord Conway.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, the noble Lord who moved the Motion standing in his name, and the other noble Lords who have followed him, have dwelt at some length upon the desirability and the necessity for the transfer of the Imperial War Museum from its present site in South Kensington to a more permanent home in Bethlem Hospital. In dealing with this subject perhaps I may be permitted to answer the question in two forms, and firstly to deal with the War Museum as at present constituted. I would remind your Lordships that the present Museum, which is housed in the western gardens in South Kensington, is held on a lease which expires in 1941, and the house in Queen's Gate, which serves as a board room and a library, is held on a lease until 1992. It will, therefore, be seen quite clearly that the removal of this Museum to a more permanent site is not a matter which need be dealt with at once. There are nine years to go for the Museum itself. I should imagine that it would be inconvenient if the Museum was not moved, but I will give your Lordships the reasons which the Government have considered, and deal with them as I continue.
The accommodation of this Museum has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Conway, and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, who pointed out that it is impossible, in present circumstances to show clearly the exhibits in the Museum which are of educational value and, I would venture to say, of national interest. The building has certainly sufficed up to the present, and I would suggest to the noble Lord that it could be made to last a little longer if it was so desired. The noble Lord also referred to the overcrowding on bank holidays occasioned by the enormous crowds which visit the Museum. I would suggest that, although the conditions may result in considerable overcrowding, that does not in any way deter the enthusiasm of the individuals who go to that Museum in their thousands to inspect these exhibits. At the same time the present building is certainly inadequate in size, and the Government are only too ready to recognise that fact. It is a pity that the exhibits which are there, and especially the Royal Air Force 166 ones, cannot be effectively displayed for the benefit of visitors, and it would be far better if we could find some permanent home for this Museum to which people could have easy access and in which the exhibits could be displayed in a proper way.
Let me refer to two Acts of Parliament which were passed through your Lordships' House in 1926 and 1931. The 1926 Act provided that on the completion of the purchase by Lord Rothermere, who generously bought this site as a memorial to his mother, the land should be vested in the London County Council as an open space; and the second Act was passed in 1931 in order to legalise the proposal that the Imperial War Museum should be finally installed in that building. I may mention that the London County Council have been equally helpful in agreeing to give the Department which I have the honour to represent a 999 years lease of this site—that is the building site— for a nominal rent. The scheme for replanning this building for the purpose of a War Museum has been agreed with the Museum authorities. I understand that Major ffoulkes has been consulted in drawing up these plans, and that there is no difference of opinion between him and the Office of Works.
The figure which has been mentioned to your Lordships, the figure of£ 5,700, has already been spent on certain essential preliminaries: firstly, the purchase of the assignment of a lease in Brook Street for the construction of a back road; and secondly—and here I am afraid I must correct the noble Earl, Lord Howe—for the demolition of the east and west wings, which have not been left open. At the moment they are bricked up, and if the noble Earl had visited the Museum, as I have, he would have seen the extraordinary and excellent way in which this work has been done. It is not accurate, if the noble Earl will permit me to say so, that the external wings are still left open. The sum I have mentioned was provided for in last year's Estimates, but that leaves a sum of about £ 51,000 required to bring this Museum up to date and place it in proper order. Every effort has been made to reduce this figure, but if this lunatic asylum, which is an old building, is to be made suitable for a museum certain 167 architectural and structural alterations are obviously necessary. The sum of £51,000 which is still necessary to complete these alterations will have all to be spent before the exhibits are removed to that Museum, and I would point out to the noble Lord, Lord Conway, that this estimate does not in any way take into account the further cost of removing the exhibits from the present Museum to Bethlem Hospital.
I cannot believe that at the present time it can be said that the transfer of this museum is a pressing matter. It is admitted, and the Government are ready to admit, that it would be an excellent thing to have this museum permanently housed for all time in a dignified building and in a central and convenient district. The area round Bethlem Hospital is a populous and poor district, and I can imagine no greater attraction for the people who live in that locality than to have a great museum such as this in their midst; but although the present building is inadequate and although there is certain overcrowding on Bank Holidays—which, of course, could easily be regulated by controlling the number of visitors—the Government are faced at the present Limo with the need for national economy. The noble Lord said in the course of his speech that £ 50,000 is not a large sum. It is not, I agree, in the Budget figures to which we have become accustomed nowadays, but if requests for structural alterations of every building came up— £ 50,000 for this, and £ 50,000 for that— the total would soon amount to a figure of very considerable size. The position must be surveyed as a whole before the amount of any individual provision can be decided upon, and if a further postponement does become necessary I feel sure that the noble Lord will appreciate that it is entirely due to the serious financial difficulties which prevail at the present time.
I do not think that the noble Lord who introduced this matter will desire 168 me to deal at any length with the various agreements entered into, for the question is obviously a financial one. The Government are in full accord with those noble Lords who have spoken that it would be helpful and desirable to put this Museum into a permanent building. They are fully alive to the fact that it is of great educational and artistic value, and that it would be extremely useful to get the exhibition permanently housed; but with conditions as they are to-day the matter will have to be gone into with very close attention when the Estimates are submitted for next year. Until then it is not definitely possible to give to the noble Lord an undertaking that this work will be completed.
My Lords, I think I have now dealt with all the points that have been raised, but I should like to say to the noble Lord who brought forward this question that the Government are fully appreciative of the energy, skill and wisdom that he has at all times displayed, and that they equally acknowledge that those who are employed on the staff of the Museum work under conditions which cannot be regarded as desirable at the present time. I feel sure that when I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his Motion for Papers he will realise that it is entirely on financial grounds. As I have said, I can give no definite assurance, but when the time comes for the examination of the facts the noble Lord's views will no doubt receive most sympathetic consideration.
§ LORD CONWAY OF ALLINGTON
My Lords, after the words which have fallen from the noble Earl I think it is unnecessary for me to say anything more. I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at five minutes past five o'clock.