§ 2.41 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will state how many rooms at the National Gallery are to be reopened this year, in 1955, and in 1956 respectively; and if they will specify the year when, according to present plans, all the exhibition space which existed in 1939 is likely to be available once again.]
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE EARL OF MUNSTER)
My Lords, of the 36 rooms open to the public in 1939, ten are still closed. It is hoped that two of these, fully air-conditioned, will be reopened by the end of this year; and that a further six, three of them air-conditioned, will be reopened by the end of 1955 or early in 1956. Of the remaining two rooms, one was destroyed by enemy action, and must be completely rebuilt, and the other is being used as a restoration studio until a conservation wing can be built at the rear of the Gallery. These would be very expensive schemes, and I cannot say when they will be carried out. The total cost of remodelling the eight galleries is approximately £90,000, exclusive of the cost of the air-conditioning plant already installed, and that of rebuilding the ninth 454 gallery and of constructing a conservation wing is roughly estimated at a further £170,000.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his reply, which gives rise, I think, to a further question. As no room has been opened at the National Gallery for three years, would it be possible for Her Majesty's Government to consider including Room XXI in this year's air-conditioning scheme, so that the three non-air-conditioned rooms which are ready now but which lie beyond Room XXI, could be made accessible at the same time, thus reopening six rooms this year instead of two?
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, I gather that what the noble Lord wishes to know is whether Room XXI can be completed this year in order to give access to Rooms XXII, XXIII and XXIV. As I understand it, these rooms were given very temporary treatment last year to allow them to be opened for the Coronation summer, but their permanent redecoration forms part of a programme for 1955, which in fact is due to start in October this year. I understand that it is not possible to advance this programme. However, it may—indeed, I hope it will—be possible to open some of the rooms before the scheme is completed, and priority will be given to Room XXI.