HL Deb 17 May 1938 vol 109 cc29-31

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That this House do now resolve itself into Committee on the said Bill.—(Earl De La Warr.)

On Question, Motion negatived.

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended—


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That this Bill be now read 3a.—(Earl De La Warr.)


My Lords, before we part from this Bill I would like, if I may, to raise a matter to which I referred briefly in the remarks that I ventured to offer yesterday, and to which I did not then expect a reply from the noble Earl the Leader of the House, because I gave him no notice that I was going to raise the matter. I also apologise to him because I had an important engagement to keep and had to leave in a hurry, but I read his interesting remarks in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and I see that he made no reply to the matter which I brought before your Lordships. It is the very old question of the pictures known as the Lane Bequest. This is a matter, as I reminded your Lordships, which arouses great sentiment and feeling in Ireland, and which I hope, in the better atmosphere created by this Bill, for which I give the Government equal credit with our friends on the other side of the Irish Channel, might be opened now. I suggest to the Government that the necessary machinery should be put in motion. As your Lordships are aware, I think all fair-minded people will say that morally the Irish case is very strong. The late Sir Hugh Lane intended to implement the codicil of the will if he had not been drowned in the "Lusitania." Legally, the holders have a very strong case, but we are so wealthy in our treasures, while Ireland is so comparatively poor, that the action I suggest, if it is taken, is one which would commend itself, not only to Ireland, but to people all over the world.

I have noticed in this connection a very interesting letter in The Times newspaper this morning, which no doubt the noble Earl has seen, over the signature of Sir Robert Witt. It contains a suggestion that these pictures should alternate between London and Dublin. We have had them in London for a considerable number of years, and it might now be the turn of the Dublin Galleries to have them for a number of years. That is an interesting suggestion, and one the adoption of which would improve on the present situation, but I think if it were followed it would diminish from the generosity of the act which I want a great nation to take this opportunity of doing. Legislation would be required. It is entirely a matter for the Government, but I believe, speaking not only for my noble friend, but for a large body of British opinion of all parties, that the time is ripe for this action to be taken.


My Lords, perhaps I might say one word in support of what my noble friend Lord Strabolgi has said because Sir Hugh Lane was a cousin of mine, and I do know he was very anxious, even before this codicil was made, that the pictures should go to Dublin. I hope that something will be done in support of what my noble friend has said.


My Lords, the noble Lord has raised a very interesting and important question, but one that has, of course, no real connection with the present Bill. I can only say that the Government are aware of its importance and of the importance which the Government of Eire attach to the restoration of the pictures. They realise also that Mr. de Valera has recently expressed in the Dail the desire of that Government for their return. I feel sure that noble Lords would not expect me to say any more at the present moment than that I will bring to the notice of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs what the noble Lord has said on the subject.

Before I sit down there is just one other point to which I might perhaps be allowed to refer. Yesterday my noble friend Lord Mancroft raised a certain point in connection with the finance of the Bill. I think perhaps the noble Lord would like to be informed that the figure of £133,000,000 was a perfectly right one, but so also was the figure of £97,000,000 which my noble friend Lord Stanhope mentioned. It will be found, if any noble Lord likes to do the sum, that £97,000,000 is a correct estimate of the present capital value of the outstanding claims, whereas £133,000,000 relates to the total amount of stock outstanding in respect of the whole of Ireland, of which only a percentage is applicable to Eire.


I beg to thank the noble Earl.

On Question, Bill read 3a.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Earl De La Warr.)


My Lords, may I take the opportunity of thanking the noble Earl for his reply? I am sure that that was as far as we could expect him to go to-day.

On Question, Bill passed.