HL Deb 30 March 1954 vol 186 cc779-805

2.52 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee on re-commitment of the Bill read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.ߞ(The Earl of Selkirk.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:


Clause 1:

Transfer from National Gallery Trustees to Tate Gallery Trustees of responsibility for Tate Gallery collection

(3) The funds representing the bequest made by the will of Miss Margaret Helen Knapping to the National Gallery Trustees (under which the income of those funds is to be applied for the purchase for public exhibition of paintings or sculpture by artists of any nationality living at or within twenty-five years before the time of purchase) shall on the said date vest in the Tate Gallery Trustees.

(4) The Tate Gallery Trustees shall have the like powers and duties in relation to the pictures and other works of art and funds vested in them by the foregoing provisions of this section as apart from those provisions would have been exercisable by and incumbent upon the National Gallery Trustees.

THE EARL OF SELKIRK moved to leave out subsection (3). The noble Earl said: Your Lordships will remember that on the Committee stage, which we had in December, the Chairman of the National Gallery, the noble Duke the Duke of Wellington, said he would look at the terms of the Knapping Trust and see whether he could make a scheme fully implementing the intentions of that Trust. I am given to understand that he is satisfied that he is able to do so. Accordingly, we now ask the House to remove from this Bill the clause dealing with the Knapping Trust. I should like to add one other remark. In moving the original Amendment, my noble friend Lord Kinnaird sought to pinpoint certain principles. I suggest to your Lordships that in doing so he has carried out a notable public service. So far as I am concerned I am glad to take this opportunity of thanking him for what he has done. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 1, line 14, leave out subsection (3).ߞ(The Earl of Selkirk.)


I thank my noble friend Lord Selkirk for his kind remark. May I make a suggestionߞthat, when making the scheme, the Trustees of the National Gallery will consider making it public? I think it would be of immense interest to a great number of people interested in art.


May I say something about this matter? I have been abroad recently, and when this matter came into the papers I discovered that I had become an object of unusual interest in the Pressߞquite unusual, indeed. They all thought I was a kind of fugitive offender and wondered whether I was coming back to this country. I agree that the noble Lord, Lord Kinnaird, has performed a public service by calling attention to this question. Incidentally, he has revealed the fact that there were breaches of the terms of the trust. I am certain that all the Trustees would be most reluctant—indeed, horrifiedߞto think that, albeit innocently, they had taken part in any proceeding which was in any way illegal or seemed to disregard the wishes of a testator.

I stand in a whited sheet to tell this to the House. One bequest is called the Carr Fund. The system we had in the Tate Gallery was this: after we had voted upon whether we should purchase a particular work of art, the chairman at the time had to sign an authority to the bank to use a particular fund to pay for the work in question. Sir Jasper Ridley, who was chairman, was ill at the time and I was asked to sign a notice to the bank authorising the use of a sum of money from the Carr Fund to purchase a piece of statuary we had agreed to buy. I am guilty in that I ought to rave known that the Carr Fund was available only for pictures and not for statuary. In authorising the Carr Fund to be expended in buying a piece of statuary, I was in error. I am sorry, and I hope your Lordships will forgive me for the grievous breach I then committed. I have no excuse to offer. I will try to behave better in future. So far as I know this was the only case in which I was in error in using a fund confined to pictures for purchasing statuary. I thought your Lordships would not mind my saying this, though it does not bear strictly on the subject matter under discussion.

On Question. Amendment agreed to.


This Amendment is consequential on the one which has just been passed. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 2, line 2, leave out (" and funds ").—(The Earl of Selkirk.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

LORD KINNAIRD moved, after Clause 1 to insert the following new clause: . The Tate Gallery Trustees shall have regard to the fact that the Gallery has been provided primarily for the display of British art of all periods, and of modern art.

The noble Lord said: The object of my Amendment is to put on record in this Bill the functions of the Tate Gallery and so try to secure that the intentions of benefactors to whom the nation owes this Gallery shall be carried out. No doubt we should all agree that, if reasonably possible, these intentions should be carried out. The Gallery has been given to the nation for specific purposes. There is a danger in all trusts and in all these matters dealing with funds and gifts that the intentions of the trust may be forgotten. There is also the danger that they may be intentionally altered, as in my view the Massey Report intentionally means to alter them. I would ask my noble friend who is in charge of the Bill to answer this question: Who is to decide what is the intention in the Massey Report on the policy of the Gallery? Who should carry out the intention of the donator? Is it the Director who decides this point, is it the Trustees or is it the Treasury?

My noble friend offered me a Treasury minute in place of some clause dealing with the functions of the Gallery. That made me wonder whether it was the Treasury who were responsible. I should be glad if he would tell me who is responsible for carrying out the policy of the Gallery. There is no description of the functions in the Bill and I know that the Trustees would welcome a definition of their duties. We were told by the noble Earl that the Treasury are rather unwilling to define the functions of Galleries, but I think that a Gallery that is given by private benefactors for specific purposes is rather different from a Gallery such as the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, or the Victoria and Albert, of which we know the object. But when we come to a Gallery given for a specific purpose, if the Trustees have no guidance I do not see what guarantee there is that that purpose will be carried out. The noble Earl in charge of the Bill said on Second Reading (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 184, col. 448): The purpose of this Bill is very largely to implement the intentions which the Massey Committee had in mind.

That seems to me to be a somewhat vague observation. As to what they had in mind, we can only be guided by the Bill. They had many things in mind which I do not feel can be carried out if the wishes and intentions of the benefactors who gave us the Galleries are to be given effect to.

I should like to deal for a moment with the Tate Gallery. As your Lordships know, it was built in 1897, and there is no doubt whatever that Tate built the Gallery to house British art of all periods. There are eight galleries on one side and eight on the other side of a central building. In 1910 five galleries were added by Sir Joseph Duveen, also for British art, to house the Turner Collection. It was not until 1926 that Lord Duveen added four galleries for modern foreign art; and one of those four galleries was to house permanently Sargent's pictures. There are three galleries left, out of twenty-five, which, roughly speaking, are available for modern foreign art. Sir John Rothenstein told me (I have the plan here which he gave me, if your Lordships are interested) that at the outside 12 to 15 per cent. of the Gallery was available. When the Massey Report is implemented, I do not think that proportion will remain. It is for the future that I am anxious, not the present. I am not referring to the rooms below. There are a number of rooms below which are not fit for big pictures, because they are below the flood level. Then there are two sculpture galleries. I am referring to the main picture galleries.

I should now like to refer to the Curzon Committee. The Curzon Committee laid down clearly that this was to be the national gallery of British art of all periods. They emphasised at length that this was not a collection of pictures that ended with the life of Tate; it was to be of all periods, the future, as well as the present and the past. The Curzon Report emphasised the fact that there was no room in the Gallery for other than British art, and that British art would more than fill the whole Gallery. The solution suggested by the Curzon Committee was that a new wing for modern foreign pictures should be provided on the vacant site of the Tate. That seems to me to be the solution to-day. In my view, it is important that we should face that point, and I cannot think why that should not provide the solution to this problem.

There is no more room to-day for British pictures than there was when the Curzon Committee reported. What is the space required for? It is required for gifts: for bequests; for transfers from the National Gallery, as recommended by the Massey Report; for purchases by the various trust funds that the Galleries have, and for the Chantry Bequestߞby Treasury minute the purchases under the Chantry Bequest must go to the Tate Gallery. Now they have a grant from the Government of, I believe, £6,250, to purchase new pictures. It is also required for loans. The loans are most important. We have most valuable loans now, as your Lordships know, and other funds and space must be available for them. The Curzon Committee said that there was no room; and I do not see how we are to make room for the suggestions and intentions of the Massey Committee if we regard the wishes of the testator.

Now I should like to refer to the Massey Report. The Report says on page 7: … we are endorsing the recommendation of the Curzon Committee, that … the Tate should be the 'National Gallery of British Art of all periods.

At the end of the Report there is the Memorandum of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries. They say, also, that it is to be the national gallery of British art of all periods, and add the words, and we consider that that should be its primary purpose.

Before saying more about the Massey Report, I should like to make three comments. The Report has not been discussed in either House of Parliament. It is a Report largely of art expertsߞthere were four great art experts on the Committee, who, quite properly, make their recommendations, I think, from the art point of view. The third point is that this Bill, as my noble friend, Lord Selkirk, has said, is mainly to implement the intentions of the Massey Report. We have to consider to-day not only, and not mainly, the intentions of the Massey Report, but mainly whether, in giving legal effect to this Bill, we are going to carry out the intentions of the people to whom we owe these Galleries. If we carry out the recommendations of the Massey Report, I do not think we can carry out, also, the wishes of the benefactors who gave us this Gallery.

The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, may ask me whether I have any evidence that these intentions will not be carried out. I do not want to make too much of it, but there is one thing. I have here a plan of Tate's original Gallery, with eight galleries on the right and eight on the left. It has now been altered. The original foreign galleries, as your Lordships know, were the last built, and are right in the tail, furthest from the entrance. Now, owing to bombing, the foreign pictures have quite properly been removed, and occupy perhaps the best galleries on the right hand side of the entrance. That is four out of the eight galleries. The other four are used mainly for contemporary exhibitions. So it is not used for the purpose for which it was built. I am not suggesting that we should alter all that I am sure that the Trustees have wisely made a temporary arrangement; but I suggest that we put it on record in this Bill what the facts are, so that when we get our new Gallery, the pictures may then be moved back and the Tate carry out the purpose for which it was built.

I do not want to go into the question which the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, raised about the funds and purchases, but evidence that there is a tendency towards going more foreign "is the fact that one fund which was left to the Tate stipulated that British pictures should be bought. The Trustees of the Tate have made a report to the Treasury, which your Lordships will have seen, in which they tell us that, of the pictures which should have been British, eleven out of seventeen were foreign It shows a tendencyߞI will not say more than thatߞof not supporting British artists but to "go foreign." I have not said anything about the subject of the artist, but I think that is involved in our Bill to-day. It is obvious that you have so much money to buy pictures, and the more "foreign" you go, and the more you spend on your foreign pictures, the less you will have for your British pictures. That is a point which I think needs to be borne in mind. I am afraid my remarks are rather wandering, but I hope I have made it clear what I want the Government to do. My Amendment is not very well worded. I made it rather indefinite because I thought the Government did not wish to have a definition. If I can persuade the House that the Trustees want it and the public want it, I think it would be to great advantage if the Government would agree to pat in some definition of the functions of the Gallery. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 1, insert the said new clause.ߞ(Lord Kinnaird.)


I should like to say how grateful we feel to the noble Lord, Lord Kinnaird, for moving this Amendment. I speak having had the experience of being a Trustee during most of the last war, and I took part in the discussions on the Massey Report, which in my view went too far. I think the noble Lord, Lord Kinnaird, wished to point out this fact. The Report envisaged a collection of Continental painters as much as of those of this country, but I would point out that until we have the necessary space and benefactions, or money in some form or other, it is idle to suppose that this is possible without complete disregard of the testators' wishes. In the meantime, with our present limitations, I think we should pay due regard to the wishes of our benefactors. Bear in mind that the Tate Gallery was built to house and display British painters of all periods. As the noble Lord, Lord Kinnaird, has told the Committee, three galleries were bought by the late Lord Duveen to house works by foreign paintersߞthey are the three main galleries on the ground floor. The fourth, as the noble Lord has said, was intended for his great friend Sargent, to whom he was very much attached. Perhaps it is irrelevant, but may I complete the information which Lord Kinnaird gave? Lord Duveen built a group of four to five rooms in the basement which, unfortunately, are subject to flooding and, therefore, are being used for miscellaneous purposes. I hope the noble Lord's statement and the little that I have been able to add will clarify the situation as it is in the Tate.

May I add that neither the noble Lord, Lord Kinnaird, nor myself is activated by any partisanship as regards modern as opposed to traditional painting. When the Trustees discussed this matter during the war, we all agreed that a national collection would require greatly strengthening by the addition of works of Continental painters, particularly the French, of which at that timeߞI am talking about 1941, 1942, and 1943ߞwe were deficient. This, no doubt, is the difficulty with which the Director and Trustees have been faced in recent years. The way to solve it is not, if I may say so, the way which has been chosen by the Tate Gallery, which has led to a considerable amount of muddle. The Answer which the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, gave to my non-oral Question which I put down on March 18, seems to mean simply that the Galleries have been living "on tick." That may be justified or it may not, but there is no other reasonable explanation. It is rather the answer I expected, but one which I hoped I should not receive; I hoped for more frankness.

I hope that by gradually getting the Galleries enlarged, and by encouraging benefactors, we shall in time get the space to hang the numerous pictures of Continental painters which we all wish to have to complete our national collection. I believe that some years ago movable screens were installed in two of the large storage rooms in the basement of the Tate Gallery. In the last debate on December 8, I recommended to your Lordships' notice, and particularly to the Trustees of the National Gallery, that they might well imitate what has been done at the National Portrait Gallery and get their rooms on the ground floor vastly improved. The same applies equally to the Tate Gallery. I urge the Trustees and Director to get busy and, as soon as the money is available, to convert those rooms to the full use, so that all the surplus pictures which they cannot hang in the galleries can be put on movable screens and so become accessible to students who wish to study them. After all, both Galleries have been in the past, and should be, the centres of scholarship for which this country is justly proud. Until this innovation is made there is absolutely no hope of any scholarship, certainly not from the Tate Gallery in present circumstances. I wish to associate myself with the Amendment, which I hope the Government will see their way to accept.

3.18 p.m.


I think it is quite clear what my noble friend Lord Kinnaird has in mind. He wishes, in the first place, to define the purposes of the Tate Gallery, and from that definition to give statutory effect to the gifts of Sir Henry Tate. I think the noble Lord rather slurred over some of the gifts of the late Lord Duveen, but that is as it may be. Quite apart from the merits of that intention, one thing is perfectly clear: this Amendment does not achieve the object which the noble Lord has in mind. In the first place, the meaning of the Amendment is very obscure indeed. I do not think it is clear whether the word "primarily" qualifies "British," or whether it qualifies modern art as well. I think anyone can take the interpretation as he likes.


There is a comma after "primarily."


I know, but it is rather difficult to get the right emphasis on a comma in an Act of Parliament. The noble Lord makes a contrast as between British art, on the one hand, and modern art on the other. Would the noble Lord not agree that there is British modern art? Why should one make a contrast of that character? The Amendment, moreover, does not reproduce the terms of the original gift. For these reasons, I suggest, with respect, that the Amendment does not achieve the object which he has in view, even if the merits of that object are accepted. I should like to add this. The noble Lord has called in aid the Massey Report. This Bill does not implement the whole of the Massey Report, but a large part of this Bill is intended to implement a small portion of the Massey Report. That portion was the division of the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery.

So far as the Curzon Report is concerned, of course the noble Lord must remember that Lord Duveen at that time had not made his first bequest. When the Bill was first considered, close examination was given to the question whether a full definition should be included either in the terms of the Bill or, possibly, in its Preamble. But long Preambles nowadays are out of fashion, and it was decided not to do this. I do not know whether it is still true to-day, but I believe that one of our classical authors once said that the greater the subject the more difficult it is of definition. We have found that it is difficult to provide a definition which could be usefully applied to this Gallery. I have tried again, since I have spoken to the noble Lord, but none of our national galleries or museums has a purpose laid down by Statute. The National Gallery, for instance, was started 130 years ago by a Treasury Minute. Its purposes were never laid down by Statute, and are not to this day. On the whole, the development of both the Tate and National Galleries has been, and is, pretty successful. They are very popular, and I would say that, judging by the attendances, they have met the public requirements.

The noble Lord suggested in the course of his remarks that these Galleries are, in fact, becoming substantially foreign. Perhaps I may therefore give the actual position of the Tate Gallery at the present timeߞI think it is not unimportant. There are nearly 5,700 linear feet (I apologise for giving these statistics during a discussion on art; it seems ridiculous, but I am afraid this is what we have come down to) at the Tate Gallery, of which 63 per cent., or about 3,500 feet, were built for British pictures; and 8 per cent., or 456 feet, for foreign pictures, while nearly 1,700 feet were for unspecified purposes. I asked the Gallery to give me a report at a convenient date as to what actually was hung. The report is of March 6. On that date, 69 per cent., or nearly 4,000 feet, were occupied by British pictures. and 14 per cent., or 820 feet, by foreign pictures. It is perhaps worth bearing in mind that in the original design there was no accommodation for storage or administration, and an equivalent of 350 feet of hanging space is now used for that purpose. This leaves about 500 feet which at that time was not in use.

Nor is it true to say that the tendency of the Gallery, in its purchases of pictures, has become predominantly foreign. I asked for a return of the pictures bought over the last twenty years, and this is the answer I received The Gallery have bought in that time 254 British works of art and 64 foreign works of art. This shows that there is no tendency for the Gallery to become predominantly foreign. Nor is there under this Bill, and in Clause 2, any sign in that direction. So far as I can judge, the tendency will be for foreign pictures to move from the Tate Gallery to the National Gallery and for a few British pictures to move from the National Gallery to the Tate Gallery. That, broadly, seems to be what will happen, so that the ratio is more likely to move in favour of British picture; than in favour of foreign pictures.

What is the position in the Tate? The noble Lord has described it. We have the original foundations of Sir Henry Tate and Joseph and Louis Duveen, which were for British pictures. We then had in 1916, and again in 1931, galleries founded by Lord Duveen for foreign art. What has happened? We have in fact a dual-purpose Gallery and there is nothing we can do about it today. There it is. I think the majority of people regard that as highly desirable. On the whole, not only is this extremely popular, but we gain a great deal from having in our midst exhibits of modern art from abroad. The noble Lord asked who is to prescribe the functions of the Tate Gallery. The task of running the Tate will fall in due course to the Trustees: that will be their responsibility. But when this Bill is passed, as I hope it will be, instructions will be sent to the Tate Gallery dealing broadly with the administrative purposes and matters of organisation affecting the Gallery. Of course, there will be necessarily some reference to this matter. I really do not think that there is any very great problem here. It is true that we have his dual-purpose Gallery and I am not sure that we can help it a great deal by close definition. What I am certain is that the noble Lord's Amendment, as drafted, will not do. For that reason, hope he will withdraw it.


I understand that the noble Earl who has just spoken has withdrawn his earlier remark, which I quoted, that the main object of the Bill was to carry out the intentions of the Massey Report. He said to-day that it was to implement a small part of the Massey Report, subject to the Treasury Minute. At present, the Trustees have no idea what they are to do under the Bill. Who are they to say which part of the Massey Report is intended to be carried out? There is no definition whatsoever. I still feel that the Government would be wise to put in some definition. The noble Earl has offered, I think, what is called a Treasury Minute. I remember the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, saying on the Second. Reading or the Committee stage of the Bill, when we were having a good deal of discussion about "trusting the Trustees," that he would rather trust the Bill than trust the trustees. I am not fully aware what a Treasury Minute is, but I would rather that the Government put their definition in the Bill than in a Treasury Minute. It seems to me that it would be something which the people would know. This is a National Gallery, which belongs to the nation. The people will not know what is in the Treasury Minute, or if it is being carried out, whereas if we have some definition in the Bill the public will know where they are.


Surely the public can go to the Tate Gallery and see the notice board outside it? They can see there a perfectly fair description of what the Tate Gallery is for. I should have thought that the information would be much more readily available to the public there than in a Statute. Very few members of the public study Statutes. If they want to know what the Gallery is for, the easiest thing to do is to go to the Tate Gallery to find out.


I am glad that the noble Earl has referred to that because the notice board describes it as A collection of British art and a collection of modern foreign art. The noble Earl asked the question whether the modern art was to be British or foreign. That is the definition on all the boards.


That is not the Amendment.


But it is the definition made, and it can be seen at the Gallery. Page 24 of the Massey Report (I am sorry that I did not mention this earlier) says that this is the only National Gallery at present qualified to provide a general survey of contemporary painting and sculpture, both British and foreign; that it should be divided into two departments, the National Gallery of all periods—which covers the future, and modern painting as well as the past—and the National Gallery of Modern Art. The effect of that is that, while both collections are housed at the Tate, they should be distinct from each other. Massey said, "Take some of the Tate Gallery." Curzon made it absolutely clear that there was no room. So, as I say, you cannot carry out both the testators' wishes. The Report goes on to suggest that there should be two directors or sub-directors, one for modern foreign art, and one for British art. That is a sort of "half and half," and if that is one of the intentions in the future—I emphasise not in the present, because I know that the present Trustees are carrying out their percentage quite correctly—and if the intentions of the Massey Report are carried into law, it will tend to a much greater percentage of foreign art. That is my view.

3.32 p.m.


I do not know whether I might usefully say a word. I have great sympathy with the noble Lord who has moved this Amendment. At the same time, I venture to think that Lord Selkirk's objection to it is rather fundamental. I think it is exceedingly difficult to define what the Trustees should have in mind. I am no longer a Trustee, but certainly when I was a Trustee one of the many things that one would have borne in mind, and did bear in mind, was what the noble Lord has said—namely, the history and origin of this Gallery. I think one had to be quite certain, in trying to conduct the Gallery and the purchase policy, to bear in mind that it was certainly a fundamental part of the duty of the Trustees of the Gallery to see that there was a good and more or less complete representation of British art. I am sure that has been done in the past, and I am sure that it will be done in the future. Though I have great sympathy with the noble Lord, I venture to suggest that he will not do very much good by trying to get a definition included in the Bill in this way. I am afraid that it is one of those matters which must be left to the good sense of the Trustees. But I feel that the speech which the noble Lord has made, and the discussion that we have had, will in itself be useful.


Perhaps I may add a word on this matter. I, too, have considerable sympathy with Lord Kinnaird's Amendment. After all, we all want the purposes of these trusts to be carried out as nearly as possible. But the real truth, I am afraid, is that it is now impossible entirely to carry out Sir Henry Tate's original intentions and to confine the Tate Gallery to British pictures—which is certainly what he intended in the terms of his Trust—since the Government of the day, in 1916, decided to accept the gift from Lord Duveen to add to the Gallery extra rooms which were to be devoted to a completely different purpose, that of putting in modern foreign pictures. In fact, therefore, the Trustees are bound by the terms of those two gifts, so far as I can see, to devote the Gallery to two completely different and, in some ways, conflicting purposes. That is the fact.

No doubt, looking back, having accepted Lord Duveen's gift the Government of 1916 would have done very much better not to put it in the same building as that which was already devoted to Sir Henry Tate's gift. They would have been more reasonable if they had found a separate building for these modern foreign pictures. Had they done that, these difficulties would not have arisen. Unfortunately, they did not do that, and I do not think it is any good our looking back and trying to interpret that provision, because, after all, the rooms which were given by Sir Henry Tate and by Lord Duveen are both built as part of the same building. That is a fact which I know Lord Kinnaird recognises as well as any of us.

May I, with great diffidence, appeal to the noble Lord to reconsider whether the first Amendment, the purpose of which I think we all approve, would achieve the purpose that he has in mind. My noble friend Lord Selkirk has already pointed out a certain difficulty about the actual wording of the Amendment, which might be susceptible of two meanings. I must say that when I first read the Amendment on the Order Paper I was rather doubtful which meaning ought properly to be attached to it. Moreover, if I may put this additional point, which I do not think has been made yet, if we do accept the meaning intended by Lord Kinnaird (having heard his speech I see now exactly what he has in mind) we are still up against the word "primarily." Though that word finds its way into the Massey Report—no doubt the noble Lord took it from the Report for that specific reason—I am still not clear exactly how it would be interpreted by the Trustees. Presumably, it means that some emphasis should be thrown upon British pictures. But how much emphasis it does not say. If the Trustees are not clear now what their position is, I do not think they would be any clearer if we in this House accepted the noble Lord's Amendment. Therefore, I am inclined to agree with what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition, and to say that this is a matter which ultimately must be interpreted by the Trustees, but that the position of the Trustees will be made very much easier by the fact that the noble Lord has put down his Amendment and has extracted from the Government the statement which has been made by my noble friend. In those circumstances, I suggest that perhaps it would be wiser for him net to press his Amendment.


I beg to thank the noble Marquess for what he has said, and all those who have given me some support. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2:

Powers of transfer between the National Gallery and Tate Gallery collections

2.—(1) Either of the said two bodies of Trustees may lend or transfer any picture or other work of art to the other.

(2) The said two bodies of Trustees shall from time to time consult together to consider whether any loans or transfers should be made under this section; and in exercising their powers under this section the said two bodies of Trustees shall have regard to the desirability—

  1. (a) of maintaining in the National Gallery a collection of pictures of established merit or significance of all countries and all periods,
  2. (b) of maintaining in the Tate Gallery a collection of British pictures and a collection of modern pictures, and

3.37 p.m.

LORD STRABOLGI moved in subsection (2) (a), to leave out "of established merit or significance of all countries and all periods" and to insert "to illustrate the history of European painting." The noble Lord said: In. rising to beg leave to propose this Amendment, I must ask for your Lordships' indulgence as this is the first time that I have addressed your Lordships' House. Furthermore, I am really not accustomed to public speaking. I am not happy about this particular subsection in its present form, even if the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk (if I may anticipate for a moment), which is to follow mine, is accepted. I am not clear what is meant by the words "established merit." Established by whom, when and for how long? Fashions change, and what may be considered established by one generation is not necessarily so regarded by the next. Furthermore, what do we mean by "merit"? A picture may not be considered by everybody to have merit, and yet it can be, an important milestone in the history of painting.

I do not know whether the Femme Nue Assise of 1909 by Picasso at the Tate will always be considered to be of established merit. Personally, I hope it always will be. Nevertheless, it is an important example of the early cubist style. Incidentally, it was painted nearly fifty years ago, in 1909, and although it is still often attacked by many people who do not appreciate that particular style of painting, it is actually only a few years later than the recent late Cezanne portrait which has just been acquired by the National Gallery—the very lovely portrait of the old woman. It would appear, therefore, that this picture by Picasso, which is one example, will in a few years' time become eligible for transfer to the National Gallery under Clause 2 (1) of this Bill, not because it has established merit, but because it is an important example of a particular stage in the history of painting.

In general, I feel that this subsection is the pivot of the whole Bill, and parts of Clauses 4, 5, and 6, particularly, which met with a certain amount of opposition by your Lordships in previous debates last year, were, I think, in some ways the result of what, if I may say so with great respect, is the result of a misconception of the purpose of the National Gallery—a misconception which, in my view, is obvious from the words of this subsection.

The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, when he first introduced this Bill on behalf of Her Majesty's Government on November 24 last year, said as follows (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 184, col. 448): … broadly, the National Gallery is to be recognised as a collection of masterpieces of all kinds…

If the noble Earl will allow me to say so with great respect, I do not agree that this is the proper function of the National Gallery. In my view the function of the National Gallery—apart, of course, from research and conservation—is to illustrate the history of European painting. For this it is essential to have available both masterpieces and pictures of secondary importance. In the study of art history, it often happens that a picture of small artistic worth, one definitely not a masterpiece or even of established merit, is nevertheless of great value to the student from the point of view of its iconography or hagiography, or even as an illustration of a particular costume style. For this reason it is absolutely essential, in my view, to have a reference picture library at the National Gallery for the student—and by "student" I mean someone of any age, be he painter or undergraduate or art historian or anyone who is interested in this subject.

There has been a considerable interest shown in the pictorial arts since the war, but this interest on the part of the public has been fostered to a certain extent by our art historians and critics, whose work is the fruit of much study and research. Thus, the student is entitled, in my view, to every consideration, not only because of the value of research, pure research for its own sake as an academic study, but also because of its effect upon others. I submit, too, that it is also important to hang secondary pictures and not always just to keep them down in the vaults—and to hang them near the masterpieces of their period so that we may all have some criterion by which to judge. Watteau seems lovelier than ever if Lancret is shown beside him; but if you banish all your Lancrets to the basement, or worse still, to the Ministry of Works pool, as is suggested in this Bill, one is not so likely to learn to appreciate the importance of Watteau. One begins, passing through a succession of masterpieces, to suffer from what we call an embarras des richesses.

But if we are to hang more pictures, then more space is required. I suggest that this further space can be created in two ways: first, by making the best use of the space available. At this point may I say that I think the National Gallery as a gallery of masterpieces has never been better hung before. However, there is a price to pay for hanging each picture in comparative isolation, and that price, of course, is fewer pictures. I think the modern style of museum display sometimes tends to be over-precious. Indeed, often the effect is to isolate the work of art, so that a kind of invisible barrier is erected between it and the spectator. That is particularly so if it is shown in circumstances and surroundings in which it was not meant originally to be seen. That is a tendency which is very evident in museums to-day, and not only in the National Gallery. I hope, therefore, that the fashion will swing back to showing pictures hung closely together. There is a most interesting letter about this question from Dr. Gombrich, a very great authority, in the Burlington Magazine of February last, which many of your Lordships will have seen. Dr. Gombrich, in this letter, gives the apt simile of a page of crowded newsprint on which it is quite easy for the eye to isolate the paragraph it wants to read without any feeling of distraction from the rest of the page. And if the human eye can do that on a crowded page of newspaper, why cannot it do it on the wall of a Gallery?

But, of course, this can be only a partial solution, even when all rooms at Trafalgar Square are fully opened—and I understand that certain further ones are to be opened shortly, and that they will be air-conditioned. The only satisfactory solution is to build more space at the National Gallery—as, of course, a matter of long-term policy. And here I should like to ask the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, whether it is possible for him to say what plans there are for the future. In his opening speech the noble Earl said, on November 24, 1953 (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 184, col. 447): …there is fortunately still room for extension on the present site.

But the noble Earl did not say any more. May I ask him when we are going to build? I realise that this matter must be one of long-term policy, with so many more pressing needs for building materials and labour. But I must confess that I am a little depressed that since 1910, when certain rooms were built, so little effort has been made by any Government to extend the National Gallery. Only one room has been built. That was in 1938. It is the room leading out of the Duveen Room that is now housing the Spanish school. If it had not been for the generosity of private benefactors like the late Dr. Mond, who presented a room in 1925, and the late Lord Duveen in 1929, the problem of space would be even more acute. Now that we are in the second half of the twentieth century I hope that something will be done, at least before we reach the end of this millenium. I thank your Lordships for your indulgence in listening to me, and I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 2, line 14, leave out from ("pictures") to end of line 15, and insert (" to illustrate the history of European painting"). (Lord Strabolgi.)

3.50 p.m.


It is always a real privilege to welcome here and congratulate, the son of a well-known Member of your Lordships' House who was deeply respected. That is my privilege to-day, and it is an additionally happy one, if I may venture humbly to say so, because the noble Lord has spoken with such ability, with such deep feeling for his subject and with, obviously, such deep interest in it. I can only express the hope that he will come here and speak to us again on many future occasions. But, if I may say so, he has to-day led me into a position of great embarrassment, because he was speaking far above my head. Fortunately I can refer the great majority of his questions to the Trustees of the National Gallery, who will no doubt be able to answer with great facility the special points which he has been making.

All I need do to-day is, I think, to ask the noble Lord to refer exactly to the purposes of Clause 2. The suggestion has come up over and over again in this discussion that we are endeavouring, in some measure, restrictively or narrowly to define in Clause 2 the purposes of the two Galleries. We are not trying to do that. Those are not the purposes of the clause. I agree that, in many ways, this clause is the pivot of the Bill. It is intended to draw a line of definition as between the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery and to place the emphasis on certain types of pictures. The noble Lord has regretted that the National Gallery should be—I think this is what he called it—a collection of masterpieces. We do not actually say that in the Bill, and I am not sure whether it is a matter to be regretted or not. Now, and indeed in the ordinary course of events, foreign pictures which become too old for the Tate Gallery will be transferred to the National Gallery, and I think I am right in saying that a number of those will not directly fall within the category of masterpieces.

Indeed, I go further and say that, strictly, none of them will, because if they had been masterpieces in the majority of cases they would, presumably, have been taken over by the National Gallery at a much earlier date. For that reason I hope that the noble Lord will be assured that it is certainly not the intention of the Bill to change the character of the National Gallery. It will contain many pictures which probably would not fall within the definition of masterpieces. He asked what is to be the standard by which "established merit or significance" is to be determined. I am afraid that is a matter for the Trustees. The Government would certainly not attempt to give any assistance in resolving that problem.

The noble Lord has dealt with the history of art. I should not like to say anything without knowing the views of the Trustees in this matter. The terms of this clause, as they will be after the operation of the Amendment which I shall be moving in a minute or two, will, I believe, be in agreement with what they wish. I should not like to alter that without making careful reference to them. The noble Lord asked about extensions. It is perhaps a sombre thought that our first two major Amendments have relation to major extension of the National Gallery, on the one hand, and major extension of the Tate Gallery, on the other. No doubt those are two very desirable objectives, but I am afraid that I can give no hope of there being any prospect of their being achieved. That is so far as the present stage is concerned; what may happen when we get to the millennium is another matter. I can hold out no hope of any such thing happening in the near future. I would end by saying that I shall be most grateful to the noble Lord if, in view of what I have said, he can see his way to withdraw his Amendment. I repeat that we are grateful to him for the speech which he has made, and we hope that we shall hear him frequently in the future.

3.53 p.m.


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, withdraws his Amendment I hope the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, will go a little further and will undertake—as he has himself suggested would be possible—to consult with the Trustees of the National Gallery who, I have no doubt, are thirsting to give him the necessary information as to what constitutes "established merit and significance." I do not pretend to be able to do so. But I think there is this to be said in favour of the Amendment. It is true that you cannot define this matter, and you have not attempted to define what the duties of the Trustees are, but you have given a pretty strong pointer, and you have told them that they have to maintain in the National Gallery a collection of pictures of established merit or significance. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, in his really remarkable speech—and I should like to congratulate him on making one of the best maiden speeches I have ever heard—has a really good point here. I think that if he discusses it with the Trustees of the National Gallery, the noble Earl may perhaps be able to devise some words to meet that point. It is not quite enough, as the noble Lord pointed out, to have pictures of established merit and significance; you want to have them in their setting, as it were. I think he has a good point there and we shall all agree with it. Whether an acceptable form of words can be devised to meet this point I do not know, but I would ask the noble Earl not to shut his mind absolutely to the possibility of doing so. I would ask that he should consult with those who know a great deal about this matter and see whether, in the light of the cogent observations which have been made, there is not a case for some modification of the phrases which were previously accepted. I hope that the noble Earl, if he gets advice in that sense, may at a later stage bring forward some modified form of words.


I will certainly do as the noble and learned Earl suggests.


I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and also the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, for their kind references to myself and also for their courtesy in dealing so fully with my suggested Amendment. I am especially grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, in this respect, because the Amendment was put in at only very short notice yesterday. The noble Earl has not had long to consider it. On the assumption, however, that further consideration may perhaps be given to the question of changing the wording slightly at a later stage, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


This is an Amendment relating to the considerations which have to be borne in mind in transferring pictures from the National Gallery to the Tate Gallery, or vice versa. The Amendment has been drawn, I understand, with the agreement of the National Gallery Trustees. That is to say that, as at present, regard will be had to the desirability of maintaining in the National Gallery a collection of pictures of established merit or significance, and the following words, of all countries and all periods will be taken out, as they are not fully appropriate. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 2, line 14, leave out from (" significance") to' end of line 15.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)


May I ask the object of leaving out the word "significance?"


The word "significance" is not being left out. The words following it are being omitted.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD KINNAIRD moved, in subsection (2), to leave out paragraph (b). The noble Lord said: I would say only this about this Amendment. If your Lordships look at line 24 you will see it is stated that in deciding any dispute the Trustees shall have regard to the principles laid down in subsection (2)"—

that is, of maintaining in the Tate Gallery a collection of British pictures and a collection of modern pictures. If we have no definition in the Bill, I think there is a danger that these words may be pointed to by a Director, in addressing the Trustees. He may say, for example, "The principle is laid down in the Bill. It is clear. That is all the Bill says about it. It is laid down that you are to have regard to the desirability of maintaining these collections." I accept what the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, says, that this provision deals with the transfer and not with the principle that is to be maintained in the collection, but he may agree with me that there is a danger that it will be regarded as the only principle laid down in the Bill. I mentioned this to a noble and learned Earl, who said there certainly was a danger of this. I also mentioned it to three or four Gallery Directors, and they also took the provision as laying down a principle. But I do not press the noble Earl, if he thinks there is no danger of this.

Amendment moved—

Page 2, line 16, leave out paragraph. (b).—(Lord Kinnaird.)


The noble Lord's Amendment would remove from the Clause any indication of what the Tate Gallery was supposed to be, and would leave the Committee which is to carry out the transfer in some difficulty. I do not see the advantage of this Amendment. I had in mind that if the noble Lord's first Amendment were carried, he would regard this as consequential, but now he raises it as a distinct substantive Amendment. It seems to make nonsense of Clause 2, which would read: …in exercising their powers under this section the said two bodies of Trustees shall have regard to the desirability— (a) of maintaining in the National Gallery a collection of pictures …"— and then— (c) of securing that each picture or other work of art is in that collection. … and so on, without any reference to the Tate at all. I have some doubt whether the noble Lord would like that situation to arise, and therefore I should be grateful if he withdrew the Amendment.


I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


This Amendment proposes to take out the words "or other work of art" to make it clear that the only transference under subsection (2) of the clause has to do with pictures. In the first place, the words were inserted by the draftsman to cover a very limited contingency. The noble Lords, Lord Huntingdon and Lord Amulree, prefer to leave them out and I agree that it would be better to do so. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 2, line 18, leave out ("or other work of art ").—(The Earl of Selkirk.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF SELKIRK moved in subsection (4), to add to paragraph (a) "after consultation with both bodies of Trustees ". The noble Earl said: This Amendment meets a point raised on Second Reading. It makes clear that when a chairman is appointed to decide a matter of disagreement between two bodies of Trustees, that chairman will be appointed by the Treasury only after consultation with the Trustees on both sides. I hope this will meet all the points raised on this matter. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 2, line 30, at end insert (" after consultation with both bodies of Trustees").—(The Earl of Selkirk.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 [Allocation of gifts and bequests].


This is a drafting Amendment. Your Lordships will note that in Clause 7 the property of the National Gallery is no longer vested in the Trustees and director but only in the Trustees. This alters a provision in the 1856 Act to bring it in line with the practice elsewhere. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 3, line 4, at end insert— (" (2) In the proviso to the said section three the references to the director of the National Gallery shall be omitted.").—(The Earl of Selkirk.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


There has been a certain amount of speculation on whether the word "institution" would bring in a Borstal or other institution. However naïve this suggestion is, we are always happy to meet any difficulty, and the Amendment makes the addition of any new institution to the Schedule subject to an affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 3, line 9, at end insert— (" (3) A draft of any order under this section shall be laid before Parliament and the Treasury shall not make the order unless the draft has been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.").—(The Earl of Selkirk.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4:

Powers of lending exercisable by National Gallery Trustees and Tate Gallery Trustees

4.—(1) The National Gallery Trustees and the Tate Gallery Trustees shall respectively have power to lend pictures or other works of art vested in them—

  1. (a) for public exhibition, whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere; or
  2. (b) for display—
    1. (i) in a public building or official residence in the United Kingdom or elsewhere for the furnishing of which the Minister of Works is responsible; or
    2. 804
    3. (ii) in the official residence of the Governor of a colony.

(2) A loan under paragraph (b) of the foregoing subsection shall require the consent of the Treasury and shall be effected through the Minister of Works.

(3) A loan under this section shall be made for such time and subject to such conditions as the Trustees in question may determine.

(4) In the case of a picture or other work of art which has been given or bequeathed, the powers conferred by this section shall not be exercisable—

  1. (a) until fifteen years have elapsed since the date on which the property passed to the nation, 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
  2. (b) in any manner inconsistent with any condition attached to the gift or bequest unless either twenty-five years have elapsed since the said date, 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.

(5) In this section the expression "colony" includes a protectorate or protected State within the meaning of the British Nationality Act, 1948, and a United Kingdom trust territory as defined in that Act, and the expression "Governor" has the same meaning as in that Act.

(6) The provisions of this section shall be in substitution for the provisions of the National Gallery (Loan) Act, 1883, and the National Gallery (Overseas Loans) Act, 1935: but nothing in this subsection shall affect the terms of any loan made before the coming into operation of this Act.

4.5 p.m.

THE EARL OF SELKIRK moved, in subsection (1), at the beginning to insert: "Subject to the provisions of this section." The noble Earl said: We now come to a clause which, I am afraid, is still contentious in parts. This Amendment is only a drafting Amendment. Perhaps I may make this suggestion to your Lordships? If it is agreeable to your Lordships, when the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, moves his first Amendment, we may discuss the clause as a whole. I do not know whether that meets with the convenience of the House, but it seems to be the easiest way of doing it. Afterwards, the Amendments can be put singly and voted on if necessary. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 3, line 10, at beginning insert ("Subject to the provisions of this section,").—(The Earl of Selkirk.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF HUNTINGDON moved, in subsection (1) (a) to leave out "or" and insert: provided that no picture painted before the year seventeen hundred shall be sent outside the United Kingdom.

The noble Earl said: I understand that we are discussing all the Amendments on this clause together, if that is agreeable to the Committee. We had some discussion on this Amendment on the previous stage of the Bill. Several noble Lords, as well as myself, were worried over the danger of old and valuable paintings lent for exhibition abroad being damaged.


I wonder whether the noble Earl would forgive me? My noble friend the Leader of the House has a statement to make, and perhaps it would be convenient if he made it now. I beg to move that the House do resume. Moved, That the House do now resume.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.