HL Deb 14 February 1935 vol 95 cc930-6

Amendment reported (according to Order).

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—

  1. (a) for public exhibition outside the United Kingdom; or
  2. (b) for display in the official house of a British Ambassador in a foreign country, pictures vested in them which are by British artists; and any pictures so lent shall be lent on such terms as the said Trustees and
Director think fit, and subject to such conditions as they may impose for the purpose of securing the safe custody and due return thereof:

Provided that ….

THE EARL OF CRAWFORD moved, in paragraph (b) of subsection (1), to leave out "Ambassador in a foreign country" and insert "representative abroad." The noble Earl said: My Lords, during the Committee stage of this Bill I referred to the subject matter of the Amendment which I have now put upon the Order Paper, my idea being that the definition of the Embassies to which these pictures may be circulated abroad is a little too exacting. I therefore propose that "representative abroad" shall be substituted for "Ambassador in a foreign country." I stated my view at some length, I am afraid, in the previous debate, and I will not enlarge upon it at this stage. I beg therefore to move the Amendment standing in my name.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 1, leave out line 12 and insert ("representative abroad").—(The Earl of Crawford.)


My Lords, I hope that the House will not accept my noble friend's Amendment. I really do not quite understand my noble friend's attitude. On a former stage of this Bill he expressed his dissent from the permission which this Bill seeks to give to certain Trustees to send pictures abroad either for public exhibition or for the embellishment of the residences of British representatives in foreign countries. Surely the Amendment which the noble Earl now seeks to move enlarges indefinitely the scope of the activities of these Trustees. By the Bill as it stands pictures may only be provided for the houses of Ambassadors, and personally I think that that is as far as we should go; but under the noble Earl's Amendment, as I read it, all Legations, all Embassies, and indeed all representatives who are neither Ambassadors nor Ministers would be allowed to receive these pictures. The noble Earl painted a very alarming picture in a former debate of the damage which might be done to our priceless art treasures, supposing they were sent abroad, and therefore I do not understand why he now seeks to enlarge the scope of the powers of the Trustees, to allow them to send these pictures broadcast all over the world. I hope His Majesty's Government will not accept the Amendment.


My Amendment does not increase the number of pictures which may be sent abroad.


No, but it increases the scope.


My Lords, I hope the Government will accept the Amendment. There seems to be no difference in principle between Legations and Embassies. Take, for instance, two countries which are adjacent to one another, such as Belgium and Holland, and China and Japan. Is there any difference in principle why one should be allowed to receive pictures at the discretion of the Trustees, while the Trustees have no discretion whatever to send pictures to the other?


My Lords, the Amendment moved by my noble friend is one which seeks to alter the provision of paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of Clause 1 of the Bill, by authorising the Trustees and Director of the National Gallery and Tate Gallery to lend pictures for display to British representatives abroad, instead of only to British Ambassadors, as the clause is at present limited. I think your Lordships will recollect that on the Second Reading, and again on the Committee stage of this Bill, I laid stress on the fact that the measure was admittedly a compromise. It was a compromise between three bodies—the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, and His Majesty's Government. Moreover, I further mentioned that the British Museum was excluded from the provisions of this measure, really because of the fact that no agreement could be reached with the Trustees of that body. Some months ago, when the matter was being considered, the Trustees and Director of the National Gallery had the whole question of this Bill under their consideration, and finally, when agreement had been reached between the Trustees and His Majesty's Government, a Bill was introduced to give effect to and embody in its clauses the decision that had been arrived at.

In considering the Amendment which has been put on the paper by my noble friend, the Government had no desire to work contrary to the wishes of the Galleries, and to accept the suggestion that all British representatives abroad should be in receipt of pictures from the National and Tate Galleries. In consequence, the Government invited the Trustees, last Tuesday, to consider the question which had arisen, due to the remarks that were made by my noble friend on the Committee stage, and also to the Amendment which he had seen fit to put down. I should like to remind the House that the houses to which Ambassadors are sent during their terms of office are often houses of large and unusual size, and consequently a great many pictures would be required to decorate the interiors of these buildings in a manner which would be suitable not only to the individuals fortunate enough to visit these Embassies, but equally to the majority of your Lordships and those people who take an interest in the exhibition of fine pictures.

It will be obvious that it is impossible for me at the present time to give any definite, accurate figure of the numbers of pictures available from these two Galleries to be sent abroad under paragraph (b) of subsection (1), but if Legations, the houses of Governors-General, and other buildings abroad, which are included in the Amendment, were accepted by the Government, it would be beyond any doubt quite impossible to furnish these buildings with any pictures at all. The question of the general extension of paragraph (b) in the manner which my noble friend suggests was considered by the Trustees on an earlier occasion, and for that reason—that there were insufficient pictures to go round—they decided that it would be far better to limit this Bill to Embassies alone. The whole history of this Bill was that of an agreed measure. The whole story was accepted by each of these three bodies, and it would be a pity for your Lordships to force some Amendment on to the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery which was not acceptable to them.

Indeed, I should like to explain to my noble friend that the Amendment that he has put down is one which I believe does not include one individual to whom he wished on a former occasion that these pictures should go, that is a Governor- General. I am advised that the definition of British representative abroad does not include a Governor-General, for he is actually His Majesty's representative abroad and does not come under the definition of "British representative." I hope that if my noble friend decides to go to a Division, your Lordships will support the Government and not destroy any chances there may be of this measure becoming law. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, asked me a question about the difference between Holland and Belgium and China and Japan, where one is an Embassy and the other only a Legation. I am afraid that at present I am not in a position to give any reason why one country should have an Embassy and the other a Legation, but as this Bill refers only to Embassies I do not think the question which he put to me really arises.


My Lords, I am not at all certain that there is not really a Machiavellian design beneath the Amendment, and that the wish of the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, to extend the purview of this Bill might not result in what possibly he has at the back of his mind—its falling to the ground. On the last occasion when this Bill was before your Lordships the noble Earl made rather heavy weather about the possibility of Gainsboroughs and Reynoldses finding their way to Baghdad and Angora, in both of which places we have Embassies. I have taken the trouble to ascertain some of the places to which the pictures could go if it were possible to send pictures to Legations. I will read out a short selection of these places—I have no doubt that the noble Earl, with his geographical knowledge, will have no difficulty in identifying them on the map. If his Amendment were accepted these pictures would then be able to go to Kabul, Durazzo, La Paz, Bogota, San Domingo, Addis Ababa, Port au Prince, Monrovia, Kaunas, Khatmandu, Jedda, Panama, and Caracas. I cannot feel that the noble Earl really wishes that the pictures of the National Gallery should go over mountains and deserts to those ice-bound climes and torrid zones. I feel sure he would prefer that the Bill should be limited even to Baghdad and Angora.

As regards the expression "representatives abroad," I enquired this morning from high authorities in two different Departments as to what "representative" really means. If you say "personal representative of His Majesty" then it would be limited to Embassies, but if you leave the word "personal" out then it becomes a vague definition, and I am not at all certain that the pictures could not go to Legations also.

The noble Earl in charge of the Bill has called my attention to a slight error—which has been since corrected—in the OFFICIAL REPORT of my speech on the last occasion, in which I was made to say that I was against the pictures going to Embassies. I am afraid I cannot have spoken very clearly, but I may say that the report in The Times was correct. I know that the staff of the OFFICIAL REPORT are, as a rule, so very accurate that it must have been my fault, and not theirs. I am very glad that the noble Earl in charge of the Bill is going to stick to his guns and he certainly will have my support. From an answer given in another place I think there are under fifty pictures available, and if you add the Embassies and Legations together they would not get one apiece. I am sure it is advisable to limit the possible places to which the pictures may go to the Embassies.


My Lords, I am afraid that my noble friend takes the matter a little too much au pied de la lettre. He seems to think that if Legations or British Residencies abroad were omitted, there would be a better chance of the pictures going round. My noble friend below me pointed out that these Embassies are very large places and want a lot of pictures and that therefore it is a pity to waste these pictures on Legations. Does he seriously think that this little Bill is going to count at all in the decoration of our Embassies in Paris, Rome, Berlin, and so on? Of course not. The noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, seems to think that fifty pictures are available. I do not know where he got his figures from because there are not fifty pictures of great British artists, worthy of representing our great art abroad, which the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery between them can afford to send, and we should simply be sending second- or third-rate things. However, I leave it. I promised my vote to the Government, and I shall not let Lord Hailsham down by voting against them. But I do very much wish that Lord Munster had been so good as to refer to one suggestion which I made, apart from the actual Amendment I moved, and that is, that some effort should be made to create a Garde-meuble. That is the solution of the problem. If only he and the Office of Works will settle with the Treasury a very modest grant in aid, then there would, in four or five years' time, be a nucleus which would be more than sufficient to embellish our Embassies, and the Legations as well, without sending second- and third-class Gains-boroughs and Reynoldses. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl to say a word upon a point which has not been raised in previous debates, on paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause I, relating to the question of insurance. I wanted to know exactly how these pictures would be insured, whether His Majesty's Government are going to bear the cost of that insurance, and how exactly it will be managed in each case.


My Lords, in reply to the noble Lord the cost of transport, insurance and all incidental expenses under paragraph (a) of Clause I (1) will be borne by the borrower. That is the usual practice, and the same procedure has been adopted with regard to the great foreign loan exhibitions held from time to time at Burlington House or elsewhere. The cost of transport under paragraph (b) of Clause I (1) will be borne by the Public Buildings Overseas Vote, Class I. On the question of insurance I am not yet in a position to give the noble Lord any indication of the situation, but perhaps he will be good enough to let me communicate with him at a later date when that matter has been decided and cleared up between the respective bodies.