§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Munster.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [LORD STANMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Power to lend pictures representative of British art belonging to the National Gallery for exhibition or display overseas.
§ 1.—(1) The Trustees and the Director of the National Gallery shall, in their discretion, have power to lend—
- (a) for public exhibition outside the United Kingdom; or
- (b) for display in the official house of a British Ambassador in a foreign country,
§ Provided that, where a picture has become vested as aforesaid by virtue of any gift or bequest, the powers conferred by this subsection shall not be exercisable as respects that picture in any manner inconsistent with any condition attached to the gift or bequest, unless either—
- (i) the donor or his personal representatives, or the personal representatives of the testator, as the case may be, have consented to the exercise of those powers in that manner; or
- (ii) at least fifteen years have elapsed since the date of the vesting of the picture.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER moved, in the proviso in subsection (1), to leave out all words after "picture," where that word occurs for the second time, and insert:
- "(a) until at least fifteen years have elapsed since the date of the vesting of the picture unless the donor or his personal representatives or the personal representatives of the testator, as the case may be, have consented to the exercise of those powers; or
- (b) in any manner inconsistent with any condition attached to the gift or bequest unless either the picture became so vested before the first day of January, nineteen hundred, or the donor or his personal representatives or the personal representatives of the testator, as the case may be, have consented to the exercise of those powers in that manner."
§ The noble Earl said: The Amendment which stands in my name on the Order Paper is one which I foreshadowed on the Second Reading of this Bill. Paragraph (a) of the Amendment relates to gifts and bequests to which no restrictive conditions attach. In such cases loans within fifteen years of vesting require the consent of the donors or their representatives. Loans after the first fifteen years can be made at the discretion of the Trustees and the Director. Paragraph (b) deals with gifts and bequests to which restrictive conditions apply, and in these cases the discretion depends upon whether the gifts or bequests were vested in the trustees before or after January 1, 1900. In the case of gifts vested before that date they can be loaned at the discretion of the Trustees. If, on the other hand, they were vested after that date their loan will for all time be dependent on the consent of the donors or their personal representatives. As I think I informed your Lordships on the Second Reading of the Bill, gifts or bequests vested before 1900 can be loaned at the discretion of the Trustees, and this will enable the Trustees and the Director to loan some part, at least, of the great collection of Turners. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 21, leave out from ("picture") to the end of subsection (1) and insert the said two new paragraphs.—(The Earl of Munster.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 1, as amended, be agreed to?
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I have not put down an Amendment, hut I shall be obliged if my noble friend Lord Munster will consider the matter at some later stage during the passage of this Bill through Parliament. I am not very much pleased with the definition of the places to which these pictures may be sent "for display in the official house of a British Ambassador 'in a foreign country." I cannot help thinking that this definition of the official house of an Embassy is not very desirable as destination for these pictures. It means that you could send pictures from the National Gallery to Baghdad or to Angora but you may not send them to The Hague or to Oslo. The distinction, therefore, is purely arbitrary and, being based upon something 778 which has no artistic connotation, is not very just. I should rather leave the responsibility with the Director and Trustees of the National Gallery without making any presumption in favour of any particular place. Likewise it might be suitable for them to send pictures occasionally to the residence of a Governor-General which, as the Bill stands, is of course impossible because it is not for public exhibition.
I read the newspaper comments upon the short debate which took place here a few days ago and there seems to be a general impression that the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery possess not only a great number of these important English pictures but a real quantity of masterpieces. That is a complete fallacy. There are very few masterpieces in the National Gallery indeed, of Gains-borough and Reynolds and Romney, for instance; and I do not suppose that the Ambassador is going to be very anxious to have second and third-rate examples of our great English painters. The best clearly may not leave this country, and the second- and third-rate ones I do not think are really desirable. It is not upon them that one would like our fame as an artistic race to be established.
I should like to make a suggestion in this respect and to enter a plea for something in this country corresponding with the Garde-meuble of France. For a good number of years past the Office of Works has been devoting a great deal of care and a modest amount of money to refurnishing our Embassies and Legations all over the world. They have done really extraordinarily good work at a very modest expense, but the work is still incomplete because the last items of decoration are not there. All the regular furniture, chairs, tables, and so forth no doubt are there, but the Office of Works has no store and no money from which to supply pictures and decorative artistic objects. I should like therefore to see a Garde-meuble built up here corresponding with that in Paris from which beautiful things are sent to the Embassies and other places inside or outside the French Republic. We ought to have a collection of good examples of English furniture; we most certainly ought to have a collection of English engravings. We occupied a pre-eminent position 150 years ago in the art of engraving naval scenes, 779 likewise our topographical colour prints, our sporting prints, our achievement in the art of engraving—above all, our series of English portraits reproduced in mezzotint. Nothing in the world compares with these and it will be far better if we could have groups of all those things to send overseas than second- or third-rate paintings. Those would really exalt our fame, because it is in those things, which, incidentally, are the most decorative things in the world, that we really excel.
Of course one would like to have tapestry like the French have in their Garde-meuble. I wish the Office of Works would interest itself in this and really take the matter up. I have not a doubt that you would get ex-Ambassadors, ex-Governors, and so on to contribute things, to make legacies and to get gifts. You would get bequests, and if the Office of Works was allowed a very small and modest grant, within a very few years there would be built up a nucleus which would make all the difference when you came to consider the decoration of our Embassies or Legations. If you could interest the National Art Collection Fund you would very rapidly build up your storehouse. If the Treasury would take me into their confidence I would convince them that by an insignificant grant in five or ten years we would have a collection which would be an economy because it would be of material value. I am sure that in many cases you would save rather expensive decorations in those Embassies and they would embellish other official residences also. Perhaps my noble friend between this and the subsequent stages of the Bill would be so good as to consider if the term "Embassy" is really the final opinion of the Government as definition on this subject.
I should like to make one or two remarks upon what the noble Earl has said. I deprecate very much extending this permission to Legations. When I was young we used to have six Ambassadors abroad, we now have fourteen or fifteen, and in addition we have forty-four Legations. I am, however, entirely in sympathy with what the noble Earl has said as regards the houses of Governors-General. From my little knowledge of the Colonies I believe that probably they are mostly empty of 780 really good examples of British art, and I think it is most important that our fellow subjects in the Colonies and Dominions should be given the opportunity of seeing what has been produced in this country in that direction.
The noble Earl, Lord Crawford, called attention to the Garde-meuble, but of course the French in that matter are in a very different position. They have no Royal dynasty in France and so the Government have the Palaces of the Louvre, of the Tuileries, of Versailles and half a dozen others on which to draw. Many of our examples of furniture and pictures are not in the public galleries but in the palaces in this country. As regards engravings, there again I am entirely in agreement with the noble Earl. This country was pre-eminent in the art of mezzotint engraving, whereas, as your Lordships know, the French and the Germans were much more active in line engraving. Line engraving was never our forte, whereas mezzotint engraving was. Thousands of examples, I suppose, are put away in the British Museum; but there again we are on the extremely delicate ground of allowing things to be taken from the British Museum. That, in my opinion, is a very dangerous door to open. I hope the noble Earl in charge of the Bill will consider the adoption of some form of words which would admit of the houses of Governors-General—that is to say, of officials directly representing the Crown—being put on the same plane as the houses of Ambassadors.
§ LORD ADDINGTON
May I add my plea to those that have been put forward? I do not know why the display of objects of art should be limited to the houses of Ambassadors. There are other places which are very fine buildings and suitable for the display of some objects of art. No doubt the Trustees who in the Bill are given discretion in the matter would not send to places which are unsuitable.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
I should like to support the suggestion made by the noble Earl, and in order to bring the matter to a head may I ask the noble Earl in charge of the Bill whether on the Report stage he would accept an Amendment in paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of Clause 1 changing the words "Ambassador in a foreign country" to the words "British repre- 781 sentative abroad"? That would cover both Legations and the houses of Governors-General.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
I do not want to prolong this debate, but I was very much impressed by what the noble Earl said and I should like to support him. Unlike my noble friend Viscount Mersey, I think it would be a good thing to extend this power to include Legations and the houses of the representatives of Britain abroad. I do not want to take up time, but I hope the noble Earl in charge of the Bill will consider extending the terms of the Bill to cover the cases put forward.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
One or two noble Lords have called attention to the absence from paragraph (b) subsection (1) of Clause 1 of any mention of British Legations and the houses of Governors-General. The Bill as it now stands was drafted in full agreement with the Trustees of the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery, who indeed agreed to allow pictures representative of British art to be sent abroad on the one condition that they were only sent to Ambassadors houses. As, however, there appears to be some desire that the Bill should be extended to apply also to the houses of Governors-General and to Legations, I will certainly between now and the Report stage bring the matter to the attention of my right honourable friend and see if anything further can be done in the matter.
The noble Earl, Lord Crawford, raised the question about the kind of pictures that would be sent to British Embassies. I think, if my recollection serves me correctly, that he raised the same objection to the Bill of 1930—that if it was intended to send pictures to Embassies abroad it would be far better to send none at all than not to send good pictures. I should like to impress upon your Lordships that in sending pictures to the Ambassadors abroad it is not intended in any way to do so as an advertisement for British art, although I have no doubt that the Trustees and the Director in their wisdom will choose pictures which will certainly stand at a high level compared with other pictures in the country. It may interest my noble friend the Earl of Crawford if I tell him that a suggestion is being examined now that a certain small sum of money should 782 be set apart each year to purchase further pictures for the Legations, which are not included in this Bill. However, as the point has been raised I will certainly bring the matter to the attention of my right honourable friend, and if your Lordships will allow me I will refer to it again on the Report stage.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clause agreed to.