HL Deb 11 July 1957 vol 204 cc988-1079

3.46 p.m.

LORD SILKIN rose to draw attention to the urgent need for increased financial assistance by the State to the Arts; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper. Having regard to the long list of eminent Members of your Lordships' House who are to take part in this debate, I have a feeling of some humility and unworthiness in this matter, because I feel that there are many others who could perform this task much better than. I can. I believe this is one of the most important matters which has been discussed in this House in recent years. The interest of the general public in the Arts to-day is greater than it ever was. It has been stimulated by a number of factors. In the first place, curiously enough, the war itself greatly stimulated interest in the Arts. During the war we had the lunchtime concerts at the National Gallery, at which hundreds of thousands of people attended. We had such things as the musical appreciation courses for schoolchildren run by Sir Robert and Lady Mayo. We have had the introduction of the B.B.C. Third Programme. We have had the long-playing gramophone records, television, and a variety of other things. All these things have increased the public interest in the Arts, and the tastes for the higher forms of Arts have become much more widespread.

What is even more gratifying is that more and more people are taking an active part in the Arts, by participation in plays, ballets, painting and sculpture. I should think there are more amateur painters in this country to-day than there ever have been, and some of their works are very good indeed. This is one of the most encouraging facts of our time. It was never true that we were a nation of Philistines, although some people like to pretend that we were. Of course, no one nation excels in every form of art, and we do not. But to-day we can claim to be pre-eminent in sculpture, in ballet and in poetry. We also have a most promising school of painting, and I believe the time is not far distant when we shall play a great part in world painting. Our performances at the opera are the equal of any in the world. I do not think we can yet claim that our opera itself is equal to any other, but certainly the performances are as good as any other.

It is not my purpose, however, to deal with Art in a nationalistic spirit, though friendly rivalry is all to the good, and I believe that the exchange of visits between artists of this country and the countries behind the Iron Curtain are a valuable factor in the interests of peace. But Art is international, and we, who have never been fortunate enough to produce a Bach, a Mozart, a Beethoven or a Tchaikowsky, can rejoice in these composers and enjoy them. It was remarkable that even during the war there was no great prejudice against the performance of a Beethoven sonata—indeed, I think that the Fifth Symphony was used for certain purposes during the war, as a sort of signal. Nor in the world of painting have we yet produced a Michael-angelo, a Leonardo de Vinci or a Rembrandt but we can nevertheless enjoy their paintings and try to possess as many of them in our galleries as we can.

Shakespeare and Dickens are as familiar in the Soviet Union and in other countries behind the Iron Curtain as they are in this country and in Germany. Indeed, I would venture to say that Shakespeare and Dickens are more familiar behind the Iron Curtain than they are here. I am sure we should all agree that this wonderful cultural inheritance which has been handed to us is a great bond between nations and a civilising influence within our own country. We must ensure that it is spread widely and enjoyed by as large a number of people as possible.

It has been the universal experience throughout the ages that the Arts cannot be self-supporting. In the past, the artist has been subsidised by royal or other wealthy patrons. The House will not need examples of that kind. The poet, the painter and the musician have usually been court officials or have been resident in the homes of very wealthy patrons. More recently, as the wealthy patrons have fallen out it has become necessary that they should be assisted out of public funds, and it is now an accepted fact that the community has to assist the Arts if they are to live and flourish. This is an accepted fact in every civilised country in the world. In this country, the methods of assistance have developed gradually and grown up, and are to-day so varied, so complex and so confusing that it defies the wit and ingenuity of the ordinary person to ascertain exactly how much is being actually provided.

I have taken the trouble to ascertain, so far as I can, the number of different sources by which assistance is given, and I think I have reached eight. There is, first, the money provided direct by the Exchequer. There is, secondly the money provided on the Vote of the Ministry of Education. They provide money for the London Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the Scottish National Galleries and others. Thirdly, there is the money provided by the Ministry of Works, mostly in the form of the provision and maintenance of buildings: for instance, the Ministry of Works have a lease of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, which they sub-let to the company running it, and they have made themselves responsible in a number of ways for the maintenance of that building. Then there are institutions that are wholly maintained by the Ministry of Works, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum. Then there is the Arts Council, which receives an annual grant from the Exchequer. Then there is the provision which has recently been made under the Finance Act, 1956, which permits of the Exchequer receiving the payment of death duties by means of chattels or works of art of outstanding æsthetic or historic value. Then there is the Local Government Act, 1948, which enables local authorities to contribute up to, I think, a 4d. rate in respect of the Arts. Finally, there are such things as special Acts of Parliament which permit local authorities to manage particular buildings, such as the London County Council Festival Hall.

Incidentally, it would be a good thing if we could one day have a White Paper telling us exactly what is the total contribution which is made out of public funds to the Arts. But there is, nevertheless, a general and very strong feeling that, with all this multiplicity of sources of assistance, the Arts are suffering from lack of adequate funds and are unable satisfactorily to achieve their object of making Art available over the widest possible field. There is a feeling that, having recognised the need for assisting the Arts out of public funds, we are doing so in a niggardly and grudging spirit and certainly not on a big enough scale.

In the short time that I propose to take up, I should like to quote three examples, but they are examples among many, and I am sure that noble Lords in all parts of the House will be able to supplement what I propose to say. First, there is the Arts Council. This comprises a committee of public-spirited people interested in the Arts generally under the chairmanship of Sir Kenneth Clark. The task of the Council is to receive a grant from the Exchequer and out of that grant to assist the Covent Garden Opera, the "Old Vic", Sadler's Wells, a number of repertory theatres, opera companies, orchestras, art exhibitions and poetry, and to do so not merely in London but, so far as possible, all over the country. The grant last year was £885,000, and this year, 1957–8, it is to be £985,000. That may sound a good deal of money, but, having regard to the large number of tasks which I have enumerated, it is really quite inadequate. Admittedly, the grants have been steadily increasing, but no more so than the actual rise in the cost of living; and the steady increases in grant have not enabled the Arts Council in any way to widen the scope of their activities. They have to remain exactly as they are. Out of that grant to the Arts Council, they have to spend about £500,000 in respect of the opera, ballet and various orchestras all over the country, including, I think, £350,000 to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and to the Sadler's Wells School. Then £55,000 went to the assistance of drama and to the repertory theatre.

In a recent report of the Arts Council, after saying that this country spends far too little upon the Arts and that the total expense from public funds in maintaining music, opera and the drama amounts to 4d. per head per annum of the population (3d. from Parliament and 1d. from the local authorities), they go on to say: Such a parsimonious provision from public funds, not even guaranteed from one year to the next, is among the lowest provided by any civilised nation for the preservation of the Arts". That is a shocking statement for a responsible body of men to have to make. They say that there is a need for thirty well-provided provincial repertory theatres and an equal number of excellent halls. They say that £1 million a year for the next ten years would furnish Britain with all the additional buildings required, either new or reconditioned and that an annual addition of another quarter of a million pounds of public funds would enable them to take care of all the new ventures.

This may be sufficient at present, but in my view even these sums are already outdated by the increasing costs that exist to-day as compared with the costs at the time of the report. But even apart from that, I consider that the figures are unduly cautious and timid, and not facing up to the real requirements. For instance, it is essential that there should be a continuous survey of cultural needs and that they should not necessarily be stabilised at their present requirements. We have now fourteen new towns growing up and a considerable number of greatly enlarged towns, and there is a real need for new cultural facilities to be provided for these new communities so as to build up happy and live communities, and not merely to create a series of housing estates. That is the case for the Arts Council.

I turn now to my second example, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. As I have already explained, this is subsidised out of the grant of the Arts Council; but this grant is naturally restricted by what the Arts Council itself gets—and the Arts Council, as I have already explained, have a great many other commitments. I need hardly remind your Lordships that the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, is a national and an international institution. Last year one and a half million people throughout the country attended performances of opera and ballet. I understand that of the tourists visiting this country some 75 to 80 per cent. go at least once to Covent Garden. Covent Garden is open for 47 weeks in the year. Not only does the Company perform at Covent Garden itself, but its companies undertake tours to the larger centres of population—Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester—so that it is not merely confined to London itself. The standard of its performances is equal to that of the most famous opera houses in the world, such as La Scala, Milan, the Opera House in Paris, or the Opera House in New York.

No opera house has ever paid its way, in this country or anywhere else. There have been suggestions that it might be possible to increase prices at Covent Garden. It may well be that on very special occasions, at gala performances and so on, it would be possible; and it would be possible, of course, by excluding numbers of people who would not be able to afford the higher prices. In those special cases there might be a number of people who would be willing to pay. But I am convinced—and I believe that the management of Covent Garden have gone into this matter most carefully—that they have reached a point when an increase in prices will not necessarily produce any larger return; it will simply leave 2, number of empty seats. But that, of course, does not preclude a further examination.

I think it would be unrealistic to imagine that any increase in prices, however substantial, is going to obviate the necessity of assistance to the Royal Opera House. The grant last year from the Arts Council was a quarter of a million pounds, and it has been calculated that as a minimum, without even extending the activities of the Royal Opera House, the sum of £350,000 is needed; so that they need an extra £100,000. It is interesting to compare that with what is done in other European countries. In France they subsidise the four national theatres—the Opéra, the Opéra Comique, the Théâtre Français, and the Odéon. The grant is approximately £1½ million. In Italy, about the same amount is provided by the Italian Government for opera alone. In Germany, Hamburg alone has provided a quarter of a million pounds—as much as we spend altogether on our Covent Garden. Even Denmark, a country with a population which is less than that of London, spends a quarter of a million pounds for its Royal Theatre at Copenhagen. Therefore, the request, or suggestion, that the grant of £250,000 might be increased to £350,000 is not a very extravagant one, and is modest in the light of what is being done in other countries.

For my third example I want to turn to the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery. I do not think I need deal with them at any great length, because I see that the noble Earl, Lord Crawford and Balcarres, is going to speak, and I am sure that he will have something to say about the grant that is at present provided for the National Gallery. Our needs in respect of paintings are twofold; first, we have to buy, as far as is possible, pictures which would otherwise be exported. There is a grave danger, with the inability of wealthy men, owing to taxation, to preserve their art treasures, and the more frequent sales that take place, that some of our most precious works of art may be exported abroad. Some years ago a Committee was set up under the chairmanship of Lord Waverley (who I am glad to see is here) to consider the alarming number of pictures which were going abroad. This is an extract from their Report: All efforts; to preserve our national heritage will be largely nugatory unless the meagre sums hitherto available for the maintenance and development of the public collections are very substantially augmented. That relates to the necessity to purchase pictures which would otherwise be going abroad.

But the second need of both the National Galleries and the Tate Gallery is to buy pictures from time to time as they become available, sometimes even from abroad, to fill in, gaps in our collections, and to keep our collections up to date. To meet both these needs there is an annual purchase grant made by the Government. I am sure that if they do not already know it they will be horrified at the amount which is available. For the National Gallery the sum available this year is £12,500, and for the Tate Gallery a sum of about £10,000. Your Lordships may have seen in the Press this morning of a sale of masterpieces which took place at Sotheby's, at which a Van Gogh fetched £31,000, a Monet fetched £22,000, a Renoir fetched the same figure—£22,000—and a Gauguin fetched £17,000.

It is true that the trustees have some small funds of their own which, together with the grant, bring their revenue available for the purchase of pictures up to something like £20,000 a year, and it is also true that the Government can, and sometimes do, give special grants to enable specific pictures to be bought. But this latter is so uncertain that it would not be possible, for instance, to go to an auction and buy a picture relying on the fact that the Government will thereafter make good the bill. It would not be much good for the trustees of the National Gallery or the Tate Gallery, therefore, to go to Sotheby's with £12,500 or £10,000 in their pocket, in the hope of picking up one of the masterpieces which are sold there from time to time. In this connection it is rather an interesting sidelight that the City of Birmingham alone has recently granted a sum of about £12,500 a year for the very same purpose—the sum on which the National Gallery is expected to maintain its priceless collection. There are other aspects of this subject, such as our priceless collections in museums and art galleries throughout the country, like the Wallace Collection and the Scottish Collections, with which I hope other noble Lords will deal, and I do not propose to take up your Lordships' time in dealing with those.

I have quoted three specific cases merely by way of example in order to establish that we are not doing by any means enough for the Arts, and I should now like to summarise the case that I have tried to make by saying that what is needed is a new approach to Art. We must accept the need to support the Arts adequately out of public funds, as one of the basic requirements of a modern civilisation. Our approach hitherto has been a grudging and a timid one, with the result that there is a general feeling of frustration among all the men and women who act as trustees of the various public institutions that they manage and to which they so freely give their time.

The amount involved is not a great deal of money, measured by any standard. I am not going to try to make comparisons. I believe the Arts Council compare the amount of their grant with the pig subsidy. I should be the last to complain about the pig subsidy; but noble Lords can, at any rate, make whatever comparisons they like. The amount we are able to afford for the Arts is trifling compared with the vast national expenditure which we are to-day forced to provide, and I shall listen with great interest and anxiety to what Her Majesty's Government propose to do about it. In a complete system of society there must be room not only for the scientist, the administrator and the practical people in life, but also for the philosopher, the dreamer and the artist. I would conclude by quoting (something I have never before dared to do in this House) from a poet who was at one time very well known and is to-day coming into his own again—James Elroy Flecker. In his play, Hassan he wrote: If there shall ever arise a nation whose people have forgotten poetry or whose poets have forgotten the people, though they send their ships round Taprobane and their armies across the hills of Hindustan, though their city be greater than Babylon of old, though they mine a league into earth or mount to the stars on wings—what of them? They will be a dark patch upon the world. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, before the noble Lord resumes his seat, would he be good enough to say specifically the amount of additional finance that he has in mind? Is he speaking in terms of £1 million, £5 million or £10 million? He did not say a word about that.


I did not add up the various requirements, but I believe I did indicate that what the Arts Council are asking for is £500,000 a year for ten years as capital expenditure, another £250,000 a year as maintenance; and, if the noble Lord would like a broad picture, I would say that an additional maintenance allowance of £1 million a year would cover all the requirements that I have made.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord.

4.17 p.m.


My Lords, I am filled with encouragement and hope because this Motion has been moved from one of the Front Benches. Indeed, one is prompted to think that that sad day when Labour comes back into power will be relieved and brightened by the fact that some attention will be paid to things of the mind, an attention rarely given by a Conservative Government, who never hesitate to cut down on such institutions as the Bodleian Library. Your Lordships can see in the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, the unusual sight of a politician who prefers to build up the future rather than pull down the past. Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who is going to reply for Her Majesty's Government, gives me no such hopeful sensation. We want a small sum of money and the noble Lord is well schooled in the bland art of refusal. The noble Earl, Lord Crawford, wants a few millions a year for the museums of this country, and the Arts Council want £2½ million a year and also a capital grant of £5 million for building in London. Without that minimum of £2½ million a year, the Arts Council can hardly cover their present commitments, much less extend them, as they should be extended, all over the country.

For lack of money the standard is continually falling. There is a fading out of all enterprise and experiment in the Arts-It has become a concentration upon keeping alive by sending all the best that we have to America—trying to make a balance at home by earning dollars abroad. As for the capital grant of £5 million for London (and I am much more ambitious in this matter than the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has shown himself), that sum would enable us to build the National Theatre, to build a new Sadler's Wells on the South Bank and to build a Music Centre in Regent's Park. The National Theatre has received the sanction of an Act of Parliament, and the other two have received the approval of the Gowers Report, As it is now, drama and opera are refused the prestige that are given them in Paris by the Théâtre Français and the Opéra Comique. We show what we think of them by leaving them in back streets and squalid surroundings. It is essential that they should have the prominence of conspicuous Government approval. And yet I have an intuition that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, will get up and roll out that old speech about the precarious economic condition of the country, the balance of payments, the inflation, the example to the consumer, the existence and repetition of which arguments never reduce the Budget much below £5,000 million.

Against such a total, our demand looks small. But the noble Lord will turn it down with that air of final authority, that invincible assurance that I find so enviable and so intimidating. He will give the weighty impression that when he refuses to add a mite to that £5,000 million he has 5,000 civil servants behind him. The truth is that the Government do not want to spend any more money on the Arts. They can always find money when they wish. But Art is not the sort of thing that attracts easy money in Government circles. Some things get by the Treasury very easily. No-one thinks it extravagant to stage obsolete air exercises on the lines of the Battle of Britain From an annual subsidy to ungrateful Jordania of £10 million, to £40 million spent on ground-nuts—


Or subscriptions to the Liberal Party funds.


I am not saying that all Governments do not behave like this. As I was about to say, the expenditure may be useless and the project may fail, but it does not have to be adjusted and justified to imperial or business ideas. No-one worries if the railways have a deficit of £50 million a year. The Arts are just the opposite. Dr. Dalton's £50 million, which would have given us for twenty years the money we want, is quietly removed from under us. In the Arts even the smallest expenditure is in Government eyes, a luxury and a waste of money. Surely when everything else is changing around us, these Philistine values cannot be maintained. The Empire and the Services are passing out of the picture. Business now leaps into the top position; its job to make everybody rich. But if the Government think that wealth is everything and culture nothing, the nation is getting the wrong kind of Cabinet Minister, and the sooner the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, is asked to form a Government the better.

Surely out of the vast sums displaced by our defence revolution the small sum that we need can be found to civilise the great democracy that we are creating. It is no longer a luxury or a waste of money; it is a first necessity for our future as a nation. As Chairman of the London Museum and of the Friends of the National Libraries, I have watched our possessions moving to the United States. And even what we have is not displayed. Owing to the refusal of capital expenditure, only 25 per cent. of the possessions of the London Museum can be seen by the public. As a member of the Arts Council since its beginning—and I have just been superannuated for the second time—I have been in continual contact with bankrupt opera, unendowed orchestras, unworthy theatres, problems that cannot now be solved by private benefactors subject to sur-tax.

A very different picture is presented when we look abroad. All the leading countries spend more than we do on the Arts. Many single towns in Germany spend more on music than the whole of this rich country. Even Iceland has a National Theatre. The Australians are running a State Lottery to raise the £2,800,000 they need for an opera house in Sydney. I have in my hand an Act of Parliament passed in Canada last February for the establishment of a Council for the Arts, endowing it with 50 million dollars. To give us an equal chance in this world-wide movement, £5 million at once on London and £2½ million a year for the Arts Council is what we want. Surely that small sum cannot send a shudder of dismay through bureaucratic hearts hardened by years of vast expenditure. We spend £480 million a year on our promising system of education, teaching the Arts at every grade, and then there is a sudden fade-out for adults, this country is an artistic desert. And all because the Government refuse to raise that £480 million to £485 million.

I lived under the aristocratic system and I know not a few of its secrets. Boredom was the bane of aristocracy, and most of their money was used to avoid or overcome it. Except to a small minority, the penalty of leisure has always been boredom. Hunting, shooting, golf, the foreign watering place, the military station in the Empire, ruling the small kingdom of the country-house, were all devices to cover up the boredom of leisure. Very few of these can now be afforded; nor would there be room, in these crowded islands, to make life interesting for everybody. So the workers have become the victims of their own revolution. The rich who were bored are now busy, and the workers, with high pay and short hours, have assumed the attributes of aristocracy without the same opportunities for filling their idle hours. For these expensive subterfuges can never be provided for the mass of the nation, who are acquiring leisure around us.

Hence, the young people of to-day are in sub-conscious revolt against the lack of adventure in their lives. They must find something to make life interesting. To fill this vacuum of the people's leisure to an ever-increasing extent is the job of the Arts Council created by the noble Earl Lord De la Warr in a moment of vision. I am not so fatuous as to imagine that this small expenditure which I am advocating is going to turn low-class minds to Beethoven and Shakespeare. But if the Arts Council were free of its anxieties about our major activities in the artistic world, it could turn its time and attention to the lamentable fact that the cinema in this country is largely stagnant and the machinery for circulating works of quality from abroad hopelessly inadequate. Still more, the Arts Council might do something about the low standard in television, which even the brilliant intellect of Sir Kenneth Clark has not been able to raise much more than an inch. It is no good saying that it will take ages, or that this atmosphere of boredom and frustration cannot be infiltrated by education; for if we fail to follow up the progress already made, we may fall into barbarism.

I will read an extract from a letter lately received from a woman in that outpost of wealth and civilisation, the United States. All over the country she writes the teen-agers steal, molest people, break into houses and smash up everything Take, again, the other end of the intellectual scale. Here is the headmaster of Doncaster Grammar School, talking proudly of his sixth form, fifty boys, of whom the parents of twenty-four left school at fourteen, and the parents of nineteen left school at sixteen. He says: These boys come from good homes, and the word ' good ' bears no relation to income. Many come from the homes of skilled artisans, who themselves would probably have gone to the university had they been given the opportunity now given to their sons He goes on to say that the homes of eleven of these boys had more than 500 books, and only one home had fewer than 50 books. It is an inspiring picture that Mr. Best gives—for that is the name of this intelligent headmaster. But listen, to how he concludes his lecture: Doncaster is a town singularly lacking in culture. There is no theatre only a moderate museum, art gallery and library. There is little or no opportunity of hearing a good orchestra, though once a year there is a visit from an opera company. I am not blaming Doncaster; I am blaming the Government, who starve the Arts. Why should Doncaster build a theatre, when they know that the Government consider it an extravagance to implement the Act and build a National Theatre in London?

Nor can the Arts Council help these neglected provincial areas. It is as much as they can do to keep in precarious existence the national institutions in London. Unless we can provide the finance, not only will Doncaster remain "singularly lacking in culture", but it will be impossible to make the country, from which the constraints of war and poverty have been removed, into a civilised nation. This headmaster knows, as we all know, that we have the best material in this country in the world. If we give them a chance, they will dominate the new world as they did the old. But they must be given something to replace the war and poverty that limited their lives. There is a vacuum into which the patients of psychiatrists are pouring. We must try to fill that vacuum with the unending interest of the Arts.

I know chat the general view in this country is that the Arts are a pastime and luxury. It is said that we are an extrovert nation, and proud to be so; that we go in for sport and the open-air life: that that is our character and our place in the world. In the old days, when the front Benches were full of Lytteltons and Lubbocks, I would have accepted this and taken without protest the back seat to which intellectuals were then confined and accustomed. But things are none too good on the athletic front. Two Americans and two Australians in the finals at Wimbledon! Two American crews in the final of the Grand Cup at Henley! It is all very disturbing. May I suggest that we seem to be doing better in the field of the Arts? We have the best sculptor, the best composer, the best actor, and the best dancer in the world. Surely our growing reputation in the Arts is worth supporting.

I put it to the Government that we should push along these new lines of excellence, exploit these more promising avenues of national success. Surely we should not have to wait for the return of the Labour Party. It may be that this national and patriotic aspect of the question will appeal to a Conservative Government. I do not expect them to see that the Arts are the highest expression of human activity, as much superior to anything produced in the political and commercial world as the speeches of Mark Antony and Henry V are superior to those made in your Lordships' House. But; I should expect them to see that all the important things the Government are asked to do, and which they ought to do—a new roads system, for instance—are extremely expensive. Our demand, so important, both for national prestige and private happiness, is extremely cheap.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, the scope of this debate is obviously so wide that its horizons can be limited only by a definition of what we mean by Art—and that I do not propose to venture to give. It is so broad that the result is that no single aspect can be fully debated. On the other side, it has the advantage, perhaps, of showing how wide is the area of neglect by successive Governments. The noble Viscount who has just spoken from the Liberal Benches blamed the present Government more than the Opposition. I do not know whether he has cause to do so, nor do I know what a Liberal Government would do or could do. At any rate, my memory of what the last Liberal Government did for the Arts is not very strong. But if I fail to form the next Government, there is something to be said for a Liberal Government led by my noble friend Lord Esher.

Owing to the width of this debate, perhaps it will be convenient if I confine my remarks to a prosaic subject with which I am closely connected—namely, the effect of a shortage of money on the Arts as represented in our museums. I would illustrate my points from the position in two museums. The museums of this country are famous throughout the world and they are among the greatest of British institutions. It follows, therefore, that even those who are not interested in their contents or in their work must recognise that our national prestige is involved in the way in which these museums are maintained and developed. I do not think that it can be said that the oldest and greatest of our national museums, perhaps the greatest museum in the world, the British Museum, is to-day being properly maintained.

During the war the galleries were seriously damaged. Much work has been done since 1940 on their repair, but both on the ground floor and on the first floor there are series of exhibition galleries which are shut to the public and in some cases open to the skies, as they were after the bombs fell. Is that a thing, I wonder, that could be said of any museum anywhere else in the world? This means that the Museum is failing in its first duty, which is to make available for the public, for public pleasure, public instruction and public education, the works of art which belong to the nation. It means that since 1939 no member of the public has seen some of the most famous works of art in the world. In one department alone the great Nereid Monument and the frieze from Bassae are to-day hidden, as they were hidden in 1939. It seems to me wrong that the public should in this way be deprived of seeing what it owns, and not to the credit of a great nation to treat its greatest museum so scurvily.

We are failing also in the British Museum in our second duty: that is, to make available for scholars the raw material for their research. The British Museum is the greatest quarry in the world from which scholars, historians, whoever they may be, can write their books and guide the thought of mankind. In the Report of the Standing Commission of 1953 we read how, for instance, the cataloguing in the Department of Manuscripts is twenty-eight years in arrears, and that 7,500 manuscripts and 15,000 charters are, therefore, not properly available to students. Those figures, I think, could be reduced to-day, but the figure is still enormous. We are failing, moreover, in our duty to posterity: for many objects in different parts of the museum are being neglected and are physically deteriorating to such an extent that the wonderful laboratory which has been built up there cannot deal with the situation.

For these things the staff is not to blame. The staff works under conditions of appalling frustration and the utmost difficulty, and succeeds in a manner which I think should commend itself to your Lordships in carrying on such work that it can do. The cause of this is that we are not allowed sufficient staff to maintain the Museum. When we ask for more, the most that we can hope to get is one-third or one half of our annual requirements. The refusal in negotiations with the Treasury seems to be on the basis of a complete misunderstanding of the importance of a great museum and of its function both in this country and to mankind. We are therefore prevented from being able properly to maintain our existing public services, let alone develop new public services, which everyone realises are desirable and, indeed, essential. That is one type of development.

Another type of development is by acquisition—and here let me turn for illustration to the National Gallery. I think it will be agreed that it is the duty of so great a gallery as the National Gallery to buy great masterpieces, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, that the most representative gallery in the world should continue to make good its deficiencies in representation. For either purpose the annual grant is inadequate. This means that there is seldom enough money in the Gallery funds to make any purchases privately in the right and proper way. What happens when we wish to acquire an important picture, a masterpiece, let me say, is that in the private market the National Gallery is not even a starter. It has to wait until the picture has virtually been sold abroad—until, in fact, it reaches the export market. Then what happens? The Board of Trade report to the Government adviser that such and such a picture is to be exported. If the Government adviser thinks it is a picture which should be bought by the National Gallery, it tells the National Gallery so. If the National Gallery thinks that it should be bought, it no doubt puts all its few funds towards the purchase, and appeals to my noble friend Lord Cottesloe, who is Chairman of the Reviewing Committee, to see whether export can be stopped. The Reviewing Committee may agree that it should be stopped for a certain period of time in the hope that during that time the National Gallery may raise the money; but, of course, if the money is not raised then expert is. I think very properly, allowed.

The National Gallery has to raise the money. It, first of all, probably appeals to the National Art Collections Fund—a private body to which not enough of your Lordships subscribe—and they no doubt will help, or may help. It then appeals to the Pilgrim Trust, which may, or may not, help. But even so, the amount will never be enough. It then appeals to the Treasury, and if the Treasury approve, the Treasury appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer approves, he may, or may not, introduce a Supplementary Estimate into Parliament, and Parliament may, or may not, grant the Vote. That, my Lords, is the system by which the National Gallery to-day buys masterpieces.

One can see how unsatisfactory this is; one can see the element of uncertainty; one can see the irritation which is caused; one can see how uneconomic it is to wait until the eleventh hour and then, in the full glare of publicity, when the price has hardened against the National Gallery, how undesirable it is that at the top of the market a picture should be bought in that way. These ad hoc grants under that sort of system have been, and always will be, necessary; but I cannot help thinking that they should be the exception, and that they should apply only to pictures and works of art of the highest expense and importance, and that the galleries should have sufficient funds to make the more ordinary purchases which everyone realises are necessary out of their own funds. I should like, in passing, to say how much we owe to the Reviewing Committee, which undertakes this extraordinarily difficult task, and of which, believe it or not, I have heard not one breath of criticism.

By how much should the grant to the National Gallery be increased? I am not dealing with the millions that noble Lords have mentioned hitherto. As the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has said, the grant has risen by slow stages to £12,500. He compared it with the £12,000 which the City of Birmingham now grants to its museum. He might have compared it also to a comparable figure granted to the National Gallery during the 1880's, when prices by to-day's standards were ridiculously low and when the supply was vast. Prices to-day, for one reason and another, have rocketed. Reference has been made to the prices in the sale room of yesterday, and your Lordships will have seen a week or two ago that a Greek shipowner bought a 19th century French picture for £104,000. Of course, we know that when Greek met Greek there was a tug of war, and it is obvious that when Greek tanker owner meets Greek tanker owner there is the devil to pay. The rocket, indeed, can become something of a racket.

When all is said and done, the truth remains that prices have genuinely risen since the war with a rapidity unparalleled in the previous history of the Arts, and that unless the National Gallery is to lock up its doors and say, "That is the end; we buy no more", we must look to a larger grant. The matter is urgent. Urgency is stressed in the terms of the Motion. The Government's advisers have stressed urgency. The Waverley Committee have stressed urgency. The Standing Commission on Museums has expressed urgency. The Reviewing Committee has expressed urgency. The urgency, I think, is all the greater because of the recommendations of the Committee presided over by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley. He recommended, with general and complete agreement, that the regulations for control should be relaxed. But he also recommended at the same time that to meet the situation of a relaxed control there should be a substantial increase in annual grants. What has happened is that that relaxation has taken place and there has been virtually no increase in the annual grants. In the last year, the increase was £2,500. The National Gallery has suggested that their increase should be to a figure of £80,000. Personally, I think that that is not nearly enough and should be doubled. I feel that the Board of Trustees would agree with what I am saying.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl? I imagine the noble Earl would apply the same argument to the Tate Gallery.


I would, indeed, entirely from my knowledge of the Tate; but not being a trustee of the Tate I confine myself to the two museums of which I am a trustee. But I may say generally, in answer to the noble Lord, that though, of course, there are differences in figures, I believe that what one says about one museum can really be applied to the others as well. If we were to double £80,000, that would not enable the Gallery to buy the greatest masterpieces. The present procedure which I have described of an ad hoc or Supplementary Vote would still be necessary, but it would, at any rate, enable the National Gallery to buy comparatively minor pictures which it is its duly to buy and which everyone agrees should be bought. I hope that we shall not be told that the time is not opportune. I have never known a time when it was opportune to spend money on the Arts, and until the noble Lord on the Liberal Benches forms his Government perhaps we never shall. But there is little time left. The reservoir is being depleted. We are not buying things which should be bought. They are going abroad, and going abroad for ever. Unless the time is considered opportune we shall, I fear, be too late.

4.57 p.m.


My Lords, I think we should all be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for having raised this matter, which is one of importance and concern, rot only to Members in every part of your Lordships' House but equally to great numbers of the public at large. The financial starvation of the Arts has a number of facets of which I could speak. I might have referred to the difficulties under which the Old Vic labours, but the Chairman, under whom I have the enjoyment of sitting on the Governing body of that unique and valuable foundation, the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, has already given your Lordships in his customary spirited and entertaining terms, the benefits of his views.

Then there is the position in which Sadler's Wells finds itself, of being unable, through lack of funds, to embark on any new production whatever for a period of twelve months. That position, deplorable as it is, has had a good measure of publicity in recent weeks. If I propose, therefore, to follow the example of my noble friend Lord Crawford, who has spoken with such a weight of experience and authority, and confine my remarks to-day to the effects of the financial starvation of our galleries and museums, your Lordships will not think that I am undisturbed about the effects of the starvation in other fields. I am, indeed, gravely disturbed about them.

But the effects on our galleries and museums, as I see them from the Board of the Tate Gallery and from the Chair of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, seem to me to be even more disastrous and more pressing. As to the measure of the starvation, I will give your Lordships only a single example, but it is typical of the general condition. A few weeks ago it happened that I was reading a book published in 1882 called The Æsthetic Movement in England. In that book there is mention of the high prices paid by the National Gallery for some pictures bought by them in the previous year. They had bought a Botticelli for 1,550 guineas; a Giorgione for 1,350 guineas, and a Mantegna for 1,700 guineas. That is an average of just over 1,500 guineas apiece. The purchase grant the Gallery received annually at that time was £10,000, and it sufficed for the purchase of half-a-dozen such pictures in a year. The purchase grant now, as the noble Earl, Lord Crawford and Balcarres has said, is £12,500, and I suppose it would need to be accumulated for half-a-dozen years—possibly for a good deal more—to buy a single one.

I quote those figures for two reasons, and only in passing, because it is a subsidiary argument. In the first place, they exemplify very plainly the fact that, from a purely financial standpoint, the investment that had been made by the purchase of pictures for the National Gallery is probably the best investment the nation has ever made. In the second place, those figures stand as a measure, a yardstick, of the inadequacy of the purchase grant made available to the National Gallery at the present time. I suppose it may be said that the Gallery is very rich in the old Italian masters—that they do not now need to buy such pictures. Even if that argument were valid—and, in my view, it is not, for even in the limited field of the Italian old masters there are still many inadequacies and many important gaps in the collection—I would ask your Lordships to consider the position not in the field of Old Masters but in the paintings of the French Impressionist and post-Impressionist schools.

I suppose there will be a general agreement among critics and public alike (and critics and public do not always agree) that the French masters of the fifty years that ended with the First World War created one of the greatest epochs of painting in the history of art—Manet, Degas, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Monet, Renoir and the rest. Reviled while they lived, they are now names to conjure with. No-one would question now that their works ought to be well and fully represented in our national collections—I say "collections" because these artists have hitherto been within the purview of the Tate Gallery, which houses the national collection of modern foreign painting, and they are now really in transition to the sphere of the National Gallery, which has for a good many years housed a selection of their paintings.

But, my Lords, if you examine what are our present resources, taking the two Galleries together, of the paintings of that School, you will find that they are a very inadequate representation compared with the pictures in the Louvre. Perhaps that is not quite a fair comparison, because there they are on their home ground; but compared with the pictures in the great American collections they are a very poor representation of that School of painting. Although we have some very beautiful pictures, we have lamentably few that are of the first importance, of the importance of the great Baignade of Seurat which is one of the present glories of the Tate Gallery. If you look a little further and contemplate the labels on those pictures, you will see that nearly all of the best do not belong to us at all: they are on loan from the Home House Trustees. Those pictures, in due course, when the University of London have built their Courtauld Gallery, in three, four or five years, will be removed from our national collections altogether; and then the true nakedness of the land will be revealed. The national cupboard will be found to be almost bare of pictures of that great epoch of painting; a great shock and surprise will fall upon the public, and there will be a great and bitter outcry.

What hopes have our Galleries, the National Gallery, with £12,500 a year, and the Tate Gallery, with £10,000 a year (a sum from which they have to attempt worthily to represent not only the more modern foreign masters but also modern sculpture and the whole field of British painting), of filling—I was going to say this gap, but it is a vast and yawning chasm? Even with unlimited funds it would be difficult to fill—and nearly all of the finest pictures are already swallowed up into national or permanent collections elsewhere. But our national collections are utterly hamstrung, facing with their present resources the fact that virtually any Impressionist picture of prime quality and prime importance will now cost, perhaps, £50,000. Your Lordships will have seen what my noble friend Lord Crawford and Balcarres referred to, that a still life painted by Gauguin, an artist not in my opinion, of the very first flight, was sold at auction the other day for over £100,000. It is certainly the case that if the Baignade of Seurat in the Tate Gallery, of which I have just spoken, were in the market to-day, it would be sold for a very much larger figure than that.

If anyone should feel tempted to ask why this great gap in our collections was not filled when such pictures could be bought for relatively modest sums, then he must be unaware, as almost everyone is unaware, that until 1946 the Tate Gallery had no purchase grant whatever: it lived entirely on charity. And even then, until four years ago, until 1953, the purchase grant was no more than £2,000 a year. Indeed, a contemplation of this circumstance shows, and shows very plainly, that relatively small sums made available to the Gallery a quarter of a century ago would have prevented the need for enormously greater sums now. And that is exactly what will be said again, in the next generation, of our present parsimony—if, indeed, in the next generation any great pictures of this great School are still available to come into the market.

I should like to go a step further and bring the matter even more nearly to date. Modern painting is a highly controversial subject, but I think that no-one with any understanding of modern painting would question that among modern painters Matisse, not long dead, and Braque, still living, are among those of the first importance, artists whose work will live and whose reputation will grow as the years pass. There is in the Tate Gallery (the National Gallery are not yet concerned with those painters) no single work of the first importance by either of these artists. And if such a work were to become available to-day, the Gallery could acquire it only if they had bought nothing else whatever for the previous two years.

The fact is that, apart from the important question of filling gaps—and important gaps there are in our collection of Old Masters—we have the certainty of leaving the later Masters virtually unrepresented unless steps are taken now to put matters on to a realistic basis, and to enable the galleries to seize such fleeting opportunities as an enterprising search may well create, before the pictures of which I have spoken are swallowed beyond recall into permanent collections elsewhere. This is a matter of extreme urgency; it is a matter in which time runs all the while against us.

I should like to turn now to another aspect of these matters on which Lord Crawford has already touched—the control over the export of works of art already in this country. The system derived from the recommendations of the Committee presided over by my noble friend Lord Waverley, is simple enough. If a work of art of substantial age and value, not recently imported, is to be sent out of this country, an export licence has to be applied for. The application is considered by an expert adviser—a museum director or keeper—and if he considers, applying the criteria that were laid down by the Waverley Committee, that the national importance of the object justifies its retention in this country, the Reviewing Committee consider the application, and may recommend that no licence be granted. But a licence can be withheld only if the owner can be assured of an offer to purchase his work of art at a fair price. On the whole, that system works, with the co-operation of the trade, as smoothly as it is reasonable to expect—in so far as it works at all, for it has, of course, a very limited scope. There is, I think, no reason to doubt that objects of supreme importance and value are referred to the Reviewing Committee when they come into the export market; and if the collection that is interested cannot find the price, then the Committee have power to recommend a special Treasury grant.

But, my Lords, the fundamental concept on which that system rests, on which it depends for real success except in the limited field of most exceptional and important objects, is that galleries and museums should have funds enough to buy from their own resources all that they need, apart from objects of the most exceptional value. That concept is, at the present time, quite unrealised. The funds made available to the major national collections, as has been shown, are utterly inadequate, while those that are made available to help provincial collections are so small as to be derisory—£1,320 a year; that is the figure. It does not go very far in helping all the provincial collections in this country.

It is, of course, true that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's power to accept works of art in satisfaction of death duty has recently been widened, and that is a change that is warmly to be welcomed. But in other respects the present position is very far from satisfactory. On the one hand, there is a great and constant outflow from this country of works of art that, though not individually of such importance as to justify their retention under the Reviewing Committee procedure, would, many of them, be desirable acquisitions for national or local collections if they had the money to buy them. I will not trouble your Lordships with the figures—they are available in the Reviewing Committee's Report. But, in the mass, these works form an important part of our national heritage.

On the other hand, the control over works of prime and exceptional importance is highly precarious, depending as it does in each case on a special Exchequer grant requiring, in each case, Parliamentary sanction. Trustees and directors of collections do not wish to exhaust their credit, so to speak, with the Chancellor, and in practice they inevitably sometimes let go one thing in order to be sure of retaining another. In recent years, if I may give an example, two pictures have been exported that would have been important and valuable acquisitions, filling considerable gaps in the National Gallery. One of these pictures was the only painting by Jacques Louis David in this country, the portrait of Napoleon, which was commissioned during the Napoleonic wars by the Duke of Hamilton—a work of the first importance and with a provenance that made it of particular interest here. This picture is now in the National Gallery in Washington, and Trafalgar Square, which is weak in the French school generally, is still without a David.

The other picture was the Clouet from the Cook Collection—a picture commonly, though erroneously, known as Diane de poitiers au bain. That was in some ways a controversial picture. I have heard it described as a mere furniture piece, but certainly a furniture piece de luxe. There is no doubt that it would have made an important and valuable addition to the collection in Trafalgar Square. However, the National Gallery wanted a Treasury grant for something else at the time and they let it go, even though, after consideration by the Reviewing Committee, it was available to them at an agreed price a great deal less than that for which it was almost immediately afterwards bought by the Kress Collection for the National Gallery in Washington. An opportunity was thrown away through the limitations of the present system, and Trafalgar Square is still without a Clouet.

The fact is, that in the steeply rising market that exists to-day, as galleries and millionaires in America, and in parts of Europe too, compete for the always diminishing stock of works of prime importance, the starvation of our Galleries is an utterly false economy. Our national heritage of such things is not conserved, still less is it augmented, and what is bought is bought, with rare exceptions, only at the last possible moment, after it has entered the international market—it is, in fact, bought at the highest possible price.

What is the answer to this state of affairs? The answer is that purchase grants must bear a realistic relation to current values, so that the galleries can seek out and negotiate for the desiderata before ever they come into the international market. If they were put in a position to do that, the enrichment of our national collections, and the long-term economy, must be very great. As a complement to realistic purchase grants,—as Lord Crawford has said, there will always be a need for special grants in some cases, whatever the level of the purchase grant—there is a need also for a fund set aside to back the special grants that will be necessary if the most exceptional and valuable works, works of the quality and importance of the Chatsworth tryptych by Memling (I have no reason to think that that is likely to come into the market) are to be acquired when opportunity offers. I must confess I had hoped that £10 million or £15 million might have been earmarked from the Land Fund and been made available for such purpose; but the Land Fund seems to have been evaporated by a book entry.

I sometimes think our galleries suffer from the very modesty of their demands. If the National Gallery required an extra £10 million a year they might perhaps get half of it; but they ask only for an extra £70,000—the Tate Gallery for even less. I will make the comparison which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, refrained from making: the two together amount to no more than one seven-hundred-and-fiftieth part of the Pig Subsidy; so of course they get nothing—or next to nothing. The tragedy is that £70,000 now would make all the difference. In another year or two even that modest sum will not suffice, and it will once again be the old, sad story: too little and too late.

I suppose it might be said that the figures I have quoted refer only to two galleries; that; they are but a small part of the whole picture; and that even there there are much more substantial expenses involved in the maintenance and staffing of the buildings themselves. All that is, of course, perfectly true. I have deliberately confined my argument to the field in which the effects of financial starvation seemed to me most disastrous, a field with which I happen to be closely familiar. But I should like on the wider point to leave in your Lordships' minds two thoughts. The first is that even if we take everything together, the sum that we spend on the Arts in an age when they are more widely understood than they have ever been before and in which, in the materialistic world of to-day, they are of far greater importance than they have ever been before, is no more than a microscopic part of our national income. The second point is that it does not seem to me to be wholly reasonable to spend substantial sums in maintaining our galleries if we are not prepared to spend what is necessary to buy works of art of the highest quality to exhibit in them to keep them alive.

Before I sit down I must make my apologies to the noble Lord the Minister because I shall not be in the House when he rises to reply to this debate. The fact is that I am really supposed at this moment to be somewhere else doing something quite different. But I can assure him that my absence does not mean any lack of respect for him or any lack of interest, and that I shall read his reply with the greatest interest.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to take any part in this debate, but the noble Earl, Lord Ilchester, has kindly allowed me to say a word before he speaks to your Lordships. When I heard the opening speech of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, I felt that I could not refrain from speaking, and I should like to say at once how deeply grateful I am to him for raising this subject. It is not one which a man without imagination would dare to raise in this House. Personally, I have very strong feelings about it. I shall confine myself largely to the realm of music, which is the only one of the Arts of which I have had personal experience, and I shall begin by putting the question which I believe is occupying all our minds at the moment are the Arts worth a substantial part of the enormous expenditure which our country is making to-day? To my mind, the answer is emphatically, Yes. The Arts encourage a love of beauty, something which is grievously needed, I feel, as I look round the English countryside to-day.

The Arts also stimulate the imagination, and it seems to me that imagination, which again is a very necessary thing, is rapidly fading in our Welfare State. We once had a very high artistic level and a very much appreciated one. I refer to the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth. In those days music was appreciated not only by the few but by everybody. We produced at that time some of the finest music and some of the greatest composers of the world; they were generally acknowledged, and their music has not died. To-day, the situation is different. We have, after a period of lapse, regained our position as a nation which produces great artists—but with this difference: that they are not generally recognised. The public as a whole are not particularly interested in music, in spite of the fact that everybody says that the B.B.C. has done so much to stimulate public interest in it. It is certainly possible that the B.B.C. has done a certain amount, but I should not be prepared to go further than that, because when one hears the multifarious wireless sets blaring out, as one walks through the town or suburban areas, one seldom hears any note of serious music. I am not complaining about that—it is for the owners of the wireless sets to choose: I am merely stating it as a fact.

What is very much needed is a sounder education in music and in the Arts generally, and for that we need much more highly qualified teachers. At the moment, the situation regarding music teachers is not very satisfactory—and here I am referring particulary to State schools—because a man or woman who has achieved the status of a qualified teacher may be asked to teach other subjects in which they are not qualified, at the discretion of the headmaster or headmistress. So that a man may go to a secondary school as a qualified teacher of French, and if the headmaster has heard that he is fond of music he is probably asked to take over music lessons. The man is probably quite unqualified to do so, but because the headmaster asks him, he naturally does so—with, in my experience, disastrous results. So we need to make quite certain that those who are teaching music in our schools have a really sound knowledge of the subject.

The position of the individual performer in this country is a very precarious one. Music is unique among the Arts in that it needs two sections, so to speak, to produce it. It needs the composer and the performer. The composer's position has always been precarious, and I do not suppose that it will ever be anything else; but it is essential that the position of the performer should be made more sound. I know many professional musicians of a high order who have said that they have no desire for their children to take up music as a profession because it is far too precarious. That outlook is certainly not going to produce many musicians of a high level from the next generation. When I was director of music at a public school a few years ago, many boys came to me and asked me what was the likelihood of their taking up music professionally with success. I had no hesitation in telling them at once that unless they had absolutely outstanding gifts, unless they were the sort of geniuses one meets only once in a hundred years or so, there was little hope of their making a living out of it. I encouraged them to keep up their music as a hobby, but I pointed out that to make one's living by music to-day is an extremely precarious matter.

The position of orchestras in this country to-day is extremely difficult. Even our most prominent orchestras are finding it difficult to go through a season without ending up with a deficit. Of course, orchestral players' fees have gone up very substantially—and rightly, no doubt; but orchestras are finding that it simply is not possible to get through a season without calling upon their guarantors to make good their deficits. That applies not only to London orchestras but also to provincial ones, large and small. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, I think, also mentioned the need for more halls. That certainly is a very pressing need. Often, when I have toyed with the idea of starting some amateur musical society, the question of getting a hall has arisen and it has been found that there has been none within miles.

My Lords, I think I have said all I have to say that will be useful in this debate, but I do press the fact that music and, indeed, all the Arts are of great value to this country. We do not want to become as the French once described us, a nation of shopkeepers. We must realise that we are producing great art and that we can produce it. We want to hold our position not only as a strong and influential nation but also as a cultured nation.

5.34 p.m.


My Lords, I propose to speak for only a very short time. I have been rather upset by the weather generally in the last fortnight, and I should not have come here to-day; but there are two or three things which I want to say. In the first place, I think we owe a great debt of gratitude to Lord Silkin for raising this matter. It is one of great importance, and I am delighted that it has been brought up in this way. I cannot help thinking that a great deal of good will be done by having the subject properly ventilated in your Lordships' House.

I shall confine myself to two institutions. The first is the British Museum, of which I have been a trustee for many years, and I shall say little about that, for, as I expected, everything has already been said by my noble friend Lord Crawford. He and I worked together for many years, and I know what excellent service he has given in this connection and how well-informed he is on the topic which we are debating. Therefore, I support him most strongly and most heartily. One of our chief troubles at the British Museum is that the Treasury completely fail to give us the staff which is necessary. It is most important, if desirable activities are to be carried on at such institutions, to have sufficient stall. Moreover, there is the danger of people going into such places and taking things. I do not think that this has happened at the British Museum, but it has certainly happened at a good many others. You have to be very careful and you cannot go ahead as you would wish if you have not the proper staff required.

Again, one would wish to bring new services into being, but that is impossible when the necessary work cannot be carried out simply because the institution has not enough people to do it. For example, a great number of members of the public would very much like museums to be open in the evenings. That is utterly impossible under present conditions. I very much hope that that matter will be taken into consideration in the future, for I think it is a matter of importance that ought to be considered by the Government. I am not going into the question of the £72,000 which is given us for purchases. I shall not discuss whether it is the right sum or whether we ought to be allowed a little more. Whether it ought to be a little more or a little less it is difficult to say. There are many other reasons for being dissatisfied, and I am not going to deal with that question.

My other point relates to the National Portrait Gallery, of which I have been a member for thirty-five years. I have been chairman of it for ten or twelve years; but I have known it for a very much longer period; and I may say that I know it extremely well. When I first became connected with it (I think that was in about 1920), we were getting a grant of £600 a year. I was rather surprised to hear that the Tate Gallery was getting even less, but I understand that that was the fact. With great difficulty we got the amount allowed to us raised to £800 a year. Now, we get £1,200 a year. Is that really a suitable amount for a gallery of the importance of the National Portrait Gallery? Believe me!it really is a very important institution. Some people may not go to see it, merely because it is rather hidden away in a corner. Undoubtedly, people do not go there as much as they should. Bui if you really want to see what someone looked like, that is the place to which you have to go. It is in this respect that the National Portrait Gallery differs from other galleries and museums. We all like to get a nice picture. We do not insist on buying highly-priced works, because the important thing is to get a real likeness.

We are not talking in terms of £12,000 a year, much as we should like to do so, but in terms of the £1,200 which we receive at the present time. From that small sum it is impossible to put anything by as a reserve which we could use when a really important picture came along. If such a picture becomes available, we have to go to our friends in one or other of the National Art Funds to help us buy the picture. A rise in our annual income is not only badly needed but imperative if we are to do the work which we are expected to do. Even if we have a chance of negotiating the purchase of a picture with the living artist, we often find that he thinks he would be unwise to come to us because he could get much better money for his picture elsewhere.

I should add that the Ministry of Works have been doing a great deal of decorating in our building, and we are most grateful to them for helping us. Ours is a curious museum. We do not want young trustees; we want old trustees who know people. We had a case in point some years ago, when a new picture came up and one of the trustees said that he knew the subject of the portrait very well and that in his opinion the new picture was infinitely better, and gave a far better view of the man, than the old. That sort of case shows how important it is to have old trustees. My Lords, I do not think that I can add anything further of value.

5.44 p.m.


My Lords, I welcome this Motion and like other noble Lords, I feel grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for initiating this debate. I believe that it is necessary and timely that this matter should be discussed by your Lordships, because in this country there is a large body of people interested in the Arts who feel that the scale of public support for the arts is inadequate. I am glad that this is not a controversial debate as it is the first occasion on which I have undertaken to address your Lordships. For that reason, I would most respectfully ask that your Lordships grant me the indulgence which your Lordships are accustomed to extend to one who addresses you for the first time.

The subject of this debate covers a wide field, and I will confine myself, in the main, to a plea for increased financial support by the State for the public patronage of living Arts by the Arts Council. That is not to say that I do not entirely agree with the case that has been made for increased grants to the National Gallery and the museums—to what one might call the preservative, as opposed to the patronage aspect of the State support for the Arts. I feel, however, that the case has already been adequately dealt with by my noble friends Lord Crawford and Lord Cottesloe, who are so much more qualified to talk about that aspect of the problem than I am. And no doubt there are other noble Lords who will be able to add to what has already been said on that aspect.

My first submission to your Lordships is that the present grant to the Arts Council is quite inadequate if this body is to continue effectively the good work of filling the gap which has been left by the old private patrons who have largely been driven off the field by heavy taxation. Another £250,000 at least over and above the present grant will be required. Your Lordships will be aware, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has already pointed out, that during the last ten years there has, been created for the first time in England, at Covent Garden, a National Theatre for Opera and Ballet. But despite a remarkable degree of support from the public, and the lion's share of financial assistance from the Arts Council, amounting this year, I believe, to £300,000, deficits to the order of £150,000 have beer, incurred. Covent Garden could be put on its feet once and for all if a further grant such as I have suggested were forthcoming.

Another aspect of the Arts Council's work which could be developed if the annual grant were increased is the refurbishing of some two dozen of our provincial repertory theatres, which, of course, are non-profit distributing and have no capital assets available for redecoration. By "refurbishing," I mean repainting, installing better seating arrangements and probably putting the box office in a better position. This refurbishing could be done from a loan fund which could be repaid over a period of years. Experience has shown that redecoration and refurbishing of these theatres is almost immediately followed by a substantial increase in box office receipts.

From the extra £250,000 I mentioned just now it would also be possible to keep the Carl Rosa Opera Company on the road all the year round, instead of for only thirty weeks, as at present. It might well be possible to create a first-class touring theatre company to show the English classics—Shakespeare, Sheridan, Shaw and so on—to provincial audiences. Other uses for the additional money would be more funds to maintain the network of permanent symphony orchestras and increased expenditure on schemes for aiding young artists, sculptors and producers. Another point which might engage the attention of the Arts Council is the lack of gallery space in Central London which can be rented by independent exhibiting societies, such as the London Group, for the display of work. London compares badly with other capital cities in this respect, and although attention was drawn to the matter in The Times in August, 1949, and again in June, 1955, the problem is still as acute as ever.

Now, if your Lordships will bear with me a little longer, I should like to turn to the British Council, in so far as that body is concerned with the promotion and projection of British Art overseas. At present the Arts do not bulk very large in their work; in fact, only 2 per cent. of the whole budget of the British Council, less than £60,000 a year, is devoted to promoting British music, theatre tours and art exhibitions overseas. This compares very badly indeed with what other countries are doing in the same field. Our own effort at present is comparable with that of Yugoslavia, who spend some £59,000 a year in exporting drama and music. It is only fair to say that the British Council recognise the importance of this powerful means of gaining good will in foreign countries, and that their executive committee have recently come to the conclusion that the minimum needed for these purposes is £115,000 per annum, as compared with the £60,000 which is now allocated. The difference of £55,000 would, of course, have to come from public or other sources.

At a time when contemporary British sculpture and painting are making an increasing impact on foreign countries, it is clear that far more attention should be given to the problem of projecting our art abroad. It is, I think, arguable that the work done by the Art Department of the British Council would with advantage be transferred to the Arts Council, who are, after all, responsible for importing all art exhibitions into this country, and it would be logical that they should be responsible also for the export of our art. Such a change might require some modification in the charter of the Arts Council, but that should not constitute an insuperable difficulty.

While I am on the subject of the British Council, I should like to mention that this country is almost exceptional in not contributing to the expenses of its art delegations to conferences of U.N.E.S.C.O.-supported art bodies abroad. Only recently the British Council turned down a request for financial assistance to cover the travelling expenses of the United Kingdom National Committee of the International Association of Plastic Arts, who were proposing to send a delegation to the 2nd International Congress at Dubrovnik, in Yugoslavia, which is to be held from the 23rd to the 26th September. The probable result will be that Britain will be about the only European country not to be represented at that Congress, which is unfortunate, if one takes the view, as I do, that such cultural exchanges are a valuable factor in promoting international good will among the nations. The amount of money needed would be only about £150; and it should be added that the only reason why the British Council turned down the application was for lack of funds.

To turn back to my main theme, that another £250,000, at least, is necessary if the Arts Council is effectively to continue its good work and consolidate the ground that has been won, it has been estimated that at the least some £50 million a year of the overall expenditure on schooling is consumed in developing among children an appetite for the Arts. I would refer your Lordships to pages 31 and 32 of the Arts Council Report for 1955–56, where this point is elaborated. Yet the Arts Council and the local authorities together spend hardly more than £1 million a year on direct patronage of the Arts. Those figures are most significant: £50 million for developing an appetite for the Arts, and just over £1 million on direct patronage of the Arts. Very little additional money is needed to put this matter right. It may be that another £2 million per annum, inclusive of a further £250,000 for the Arts Council, would take care both of the preservative and of the patronage aspects of the public finance of the Arts. This is a small sum, indeed, in relation to the total national expenditure. Here is an opportunity for the Government to add to their laurels in the field of Art at a very small overall cost. I hope that the Government, who have shown such courage in tackling the problem of rent restriction, and so much foresight in regard to atomic power and technical education, will now have the vision to put the Arts on their feet.

5.58 p.m.


My Lords, it is my pleasant duty to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Croft, on his maiden speech, which, if I may be allowed to say so, has been forthright and to the point and has emphasised what your Lordships know so well: that there is hardly a debate that takes place here without some noble Lord showing his expert knowledge of the subject. The House is indeed fortunate to have the noble Lord as a member.

We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for having brought this matter to our attention; and I take it that what has brought us to this House to-day are three reports: the report of the Arts Council, which has been often referred to, and the two reports of the National Gallery. The National Gallery did not make a report during the war, and the last two are for the last eleven years, if I am not mistaken—the first for ten years, and the last for the eleventh year. A great deal has been said about the Arts Council report, and I do not want to repeat what other noble Lords have already said. However, I should like to emphasise something that has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin: that one of the prime needs of the Arts Council is to have sufficient buildings in the provinces where they can operate. The second thing, of course, is the lack of cash. They are not the only ones to suffer in this country or who have unfortunate circumstances with which to deal.

Another point which I noticed in the report has not been mentioned. They had hoped that a grant would be made on a five-year basis, which would allow them to plan ahead; but that, unfortunately, has not been the case. I hope the noble Lord who is to reply will give us some reassurance about that matter. It appears to be rather important. The actual amount which the Arts Council receive must be weighed against the enormous amount spent in this country on education, which is £485 million, of which the Ministry of Education is responsible for £356 million. As your Lordships are aware, the Local Government Act, 1948, authorises local authorities to spend up to a 6d. rate in England and Wales, and rather less in Scotland, in order to encourage local expression in the Arts. The report says that £1 million is being contributed annually in Great Britain by the Arts Council and by local authorities as against nearly £500 million spent on education.

That seems rather disproportionate, especially when it is remembered that children nowadays receive training and education in the Arts but insufficient provision is being made for them to enjoy the Arts when they leave school. As your Lordships perhaps know, there is an academy of art at my home which has been partly converted into a training college for art teachers, and I know only too well from actual experience what this means to the country. It is deplorable, I think, that this great sum of money is being spent on education without the proportionate amount on that further side of education, the enjoyment of the Arts generally when adolescent reaches the adult stage

May I add that, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has already reminded us, most Continental countries have accepted the obligation to replace private, by public, patronage, by the rates and by the taxes. In the report, France is quoted and so are Italy, Germany, Austria, Belgium and Holland. Unfortunately, we lag behind these countries, and what the Government should take into consideration is the way the private patron has been practically taxed out of existence. I should like to refer to this later and make a suggestion to the Government to follow the American principle.

Now let us move to the National Gallery reports, on which the noble Earl, Lord Crawford and Balcarres, has so ably spoken. May I say that those of us who took part in the debate on the National Gallery and Tate Gallery Bill two or three years ago, are delighted to know that at any rate, one or two of our modest suggestions have been, or are likely to be, adopted—I refer particularly to the modernisation of the ground floor of the National Gallery. I understand from the answer given by the noble Earl, Lord Munster, on January 29 last, that the sum of £300,000 has been earmarked for that particular purpose, and that subject to confirmation by Parliament the work will start in about six months' time. I think the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, would confirm that. That is very satisfactory indeed, but it is not the whole story.

The question of the grant which has been mentioned often this afternoon is perhaps a little too obvious to labour, but I should like to add something to what has been said. First, if the grant was £10,000 in 1880, and £10,000 a year or two ago, that is not the same sum at all. After all, what is the value of the pound to-day compared with its value in 1880? I am not wise enough to know, but an equivalent sum should certainly be eight times that figure. That happens to be the figure the trustees suggest. In other words, as the value of the pound has fallen these grants should have gone up. Are the Government unaware of the change in the pound? They cannot be. I do not think anybody can. Do they realise that we are completely outdated in the international and overseas market? With £12,500 a year we cannot compete with the private well-endowed galleries of the United States or the galleries and museums of the Commonwealth.

I made some inquiries this morning at Canada House as to what the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa spent on purchases. I was told that last year they spent 920,000 dollars on pictures and sculpture, and that this year the estimate for the purchase of pictures was 130,000 dollars. If you divide that by about three, you get something near the pound value. We are nowhere near that figure. It would be interesting to know, if someone had the time to find out, what some of the privately-owned museums and art galleries in America have to spend in a year. To-day we have heard about Birmingham. It seems to me that this is harassing to say the least. It is most discouraging, and it has, as both the noble Earl, Lord Crawford and Balcarres, and the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, have explained to us, put the trustees in a very difficult position. They cannot compete in this market. If they had £150,000 a year it would give them elbow room to play with in what at the present moment is a sellers' market. But they cannot compete.

Your Lordships know as well as I do that for some years a certain amount of indulgence in the matter of price has been shown by owners of valuable picture which the National Gallery has wanted. They have been prepared to come to favourable terms with the National Gallery. That is my personal experience as a trustee. We should take advantage of this good will on the part of the owners. In present circumstances, as we have been told, the trustees are more or less helpless until sales have taken place and appeals for refusal of export licence have been lodged. This the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, who should know better than anyone else, entirely confirmed a few minutes ago.

The museums and art galleries under the jurisdiction of local authorities are, on the whole, well-run, and in some cases, such as in Birmingham, have been well provided with an annual grant. Sir Philip Hendy, the President of the Museums' Association—which, by the way, is deliberating at this moment at Bristol—sounded a word of warning in his Presidential address. I should like to quote from the report of his remarks which was published yesterday in the Daily Telegraph. He said: Some of our nationally-famous museums can still hold up their heads. But even the best are running behind because their funds are infinitesimal. The plight of the small and badly endowed museums is deplorable. In this country, where everything else is more or less equitably distributed, it is nobody's business to see that there is an equitable distribution of what I might call wholesome food for the eye. Some centralised authority was needed to secure this—I want to emphasise this. The situation is urgent when smaller institutions are in danger of shutting down, when even established foundations are given insufficient funds and have not enough staff. The opportunities to remedy this will very soon be gone. Our National Heritage of the many things which go to make museums and art galleries is being exported at such a furious rate that in a few years there will be very little left. The Museums' Association is a valuable co-ordinating body to which owners of private collections belong, as well as provincial and national institutions. This Association, your Lordships may know, submitted a memorandum to the Treasury in November, 1955, asking for an emergency fund to assist certain museums who were in a sorry plight, and I to have a Royal Commission to examine, report on and formulate a future plan. The Government replied, however, that it was a local matter to be dealt with by local authorities. I have the report here, if your Lordships would like to see it. The Association now presses for a Regional Museum Service to be set up with Regional Museum Boards, such as is already provided by the National Museum of Wales and which attracts a direct grant from the Treasury. The full context of the proposals was printed in the December, 1956, issue of the Museum Journal.

Some of the museums are in a sorry state and plight. We have many in the West country, such as those at Truro, Salisbury, Devizes and Bath; there is the Holbourne Museum at Bath—I mention just those few. They are causing anxiety as many of them were endowed years ago with funds which no longer defray the cost even of administration and maintenance. Further, under the present system of taxation private endowment can hardly be looked for. Societies known as "Friends of the Museum" have come into being, and are a help, but even so their future looks bleak. I mention the Holbourne Museum at Bath as a case in point. Your Lordships may have seen the letter from its Chairman, Sir Orme Sargent, in a recent issue of the Daily Telegraph in which he forecasts that, unless financial help is forthcoming soon, the Museum will have to close down. A suggestion has been made by one who is well acquainted with this side of the nation's activities that an independent body should be created, rather on the lines, I gather, of the University Grants Committee, which he calls the Trustees of the Provincial Museums Fund. This suggestion is also well worth following up, on the supposition that grants would be made by such a body for private museums, for art galleries, such as the Holbourne Museum, and for essential maintenance expenses and for buying objects of local interest.

I think I should touch, however lightly, on works of art in those private collections which have not so far been liquidated. I think it would be to the nation's advantage, taking the long view, if the best of the works in these collections were listed and if they were related to those in the National Gallery and the more important provincial galleries. We know, of course, that certain masterpieces have been earmarked for the nation, and that these may in time find their way to the National Gallery. I am not, however, alluding to this list (which anyhow is a confidential one); I mean a list of all those old pictures. Old Masters for the most part, which still form the majority of the collections still in private hands. Such a list would be invaluable to the student, to the visitor or to the expert who wished to study the works of certain masters. I do not quite know how the casual visitor—or, for that matter, anyone else—would or could get this information. I have heard that such a list is in course of preparation. Possibly the Courtauld Institute, which is doing invaluable work on these lines, would be in a position in time to publish such a list, as it is getting together a most valuable collection of photographs and of pictures of value to this country, and I presume that it is nothing more nor less than an extension of the Witt Library. Such a list, naturally, should be made entirely voluntarily.

I should like to make a recommendation to the Government. Recently the Finance Act was amended, as we have heard, to make possible the discharge of death duties by the presentation of works of art to the nation. That is all to the good. We have heard only this morning that Saltram House has been taken by the Treasury in part payment of death duties and passed over to the National Trust, I hope with sufficient endowment. I see no reason why we should not also imitate the American practice—and here I will quote Mr. Denys Sutton in the Financial Times. He says: In the United States taxable income can be reduced either by financial contributions to institutions of an educational nature or else by account being taken of the value of gifts of works of at to museums and galleries, made either during the lifetime of a benefactor or at his death. In the United States, as is made plain in that stimulating publication dealing with the life of the late Lord Duveen, the moment this became law his clients were apparently easily persuaded to collect for their State or town, rather than for their heirs, which was quite useless. I hope the Government will give this aspect of the matter proper consideration as one method, among others, of preserving our great national heritage of artistic treasures before we have no more in private hands to preserve.

So far, your Lordships can hardly accuse us of having introduced anything of a highly controversial nature into this debate. As the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, has said, the obvious excuse for this parsimonious treatment of the Arts is finance and the continued threat of inflation—" the nation cannot afford any money "; and so on. This, I think, the noble Lords who spoke to-day would not for one moment admit. They feel that it is too big a subject to dismiss in that rather trivial way. I think we should say—and I think we are united in feeling—that the Government are spending a vast sum on education, so why is it that one of the most important aspects of education is being neglected? Personally, I have not a doubt why. To my way of thinking, it is because this country has no one Minister who is answerable in Parliament for the Arts. We have already had four mentioned. In Continental countries (France, Italy, Germany, Holland and Denmark, for example, to name but a few whose cultural attaches I rang up to get the facts) the Minister of Public Education is answerable for all matters relating to his Fine Arts Department.

In France, as your Lordships know, this Department is known as the Beaux Arts and has the maintenance and administration of historic buildings of national importance and nationally-owned museums and art galleries. In France, both the archives and the libraries come under the Minister of Public Education, but not as part of the Fine Arts Department; they each have their own separate administration, although under the Minister of Education. This arrangement seems to me a perfectly logical one, and one to which I feel we must come one day, if we wish to avoid the rebuke of living by a system which is both archaic and obsolete. For who is better qualified to speak for the Arils, to weigh up the financial requirements of each department and give a balanced Budget, than the Minister of Education, with his technical staff to give him the necessary assistance?

If your Lordships care to refer to the Civil Estimates for 1957–58, Class IV and VII, you will see that the Minister of Education has under him only two museums—namely, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum, which are administered, as in the case of other galleries and museums, by trustees. The Trustees of all the others—the British Museum (including the Natural History Museum), the Imperial War Museum, the London Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the National Maritime Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, The Wallace Collection at Hertford House—are appointed by the Treasury, who also control the grants for the Sciences and the Arts to the universities and colleges of Great Britain.

I refer now to page 2 of Class IV in the Estimates. In addition to the Minister of Education, who seems to have a very small, though important, share in these matters, and the Treasury, who have accepted by far the largest responsibility, there is the Minister of Works. He is responsible for scheduled historical monuments, and is now more and more solicitous for the fate of the most important of our inhabited historic houses and their contents, and firmly entrenched behind exciting past achievements with such great men as Wren, Vanburgh, Hawksmore and others in their pedigree. And he has a most efficient staff, consecrated to their work of preservation, as any one of your Lordships can see from the wonderful work now being done at Chiswick House, which will be one of the great marvels of Europe when completed.

In addition, we have the Minister of Housing and Local Government, with his dwindling staff of investigators, also interested in this business of preservation. In France, the whole gamut is under the Minister of Education. We in this country have four Ministries, including the Treasury, involved in the Fine Arts in one way or another. Seeing that it is the Treasury who control—subject, of course, to trustees—the biggest part of the national art galleries and museums, I personally am not at all surprised that we find ourselves in rather a mess. Would it not simplify things enormously, and make for far greater efficiency, if we learned from our neighbours across the Channel and put all these matters—certainly national art galleries and museums—under the care of the Minister who is obviously the most suited to deal with them? I feel that we shall never make real progress until we have a Fine Arts Department under this Minister, continuing, of course, our excellent system of Trustees. If this is taken as introducing a controversial note, I make no excuse, because I believe that our present ad hoc arrangements—improvisation if you like—and not merely finance, are at the bottom of our trouble. It implies a major change, but I have been convinced for some time that a radical change is necessary.

6.24 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join with my noble friend Lord Methuen in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Croft, on his excellent maiden speech. I had the privilege of being an intimate friend of his father for many years in another place, and I should like to tell him now that, in spite of having very strong right wing opinions, his father was universally popular with all sides of the House, owing to his good looks and his courtesy, his sense of humour and his good temper. His son, my noble friend behind me, has every reason to be proud of his father, and I have no doubt that we in this House shall soon learn to be proud of his father's son.

My Lords, it is an ungrateful task when, so obviously, the whole House is of one opinion, to venture to offer an opinion from a somewhat different standpoint. Before going further I should like to say that I am no Philistine in this matter; I have always been extremely fond of all forms of art, and all my life have been a collector in a modest way of pictures and objets d'art; and I have been a keen follower of the drama and other forms of entertainment of that type.

I greatly sympathise with the attitude of mind which is evident in all the speeches to which we have listened, but they have rather tended to groan over our gaps and lacks, and have not emphasised enough, it may be, the great possessions which we have. Where else in the world can you find such museums and galleries as there are in the city of London? I have seen most of the galleries, and such like, in most of the countries of the world, but never yet have I found a set of galleries and museums which can compare with those that we possess here—to say nothing of the little subsidiary galleries like the one at Dulwich or the fine collection of portraits at Ken Wood. Where else in the world can you find such a magnificent assortment of country houses, which are increasingly being thrown open, at a fee, by their owners, together with all the charming collections of valuable works of art which are to be found therein?

We are very fortunate in these things. On the other hand, we are unfortunate in being the most heavily taxed country in the world. There has been—it is still going on—a great redistribution of wealth, and the people who own these valuable works of art are those who are most hit by this redistribution of wealth. I will undertake to say that, by and large, no work of art is sold except with great reluctance by those who have to use the money to pay taxes or to meet expenses thereby. If an excellent work of art from all our great wealth goes abroad to America or to Canada, or even to the Argentine, need we be too jealous of the fact? The noble Lord who has just spoken remarked that Canada paid 90,000 dollars last year—that is, about £30,000—on the purchase of works of art, under the leadership of its Governor-General who is a keen connoisseur. But we must remember that Canada is starting from scratch. When I was in Montreal about five years ago, there was not a gallery worth seeing at all. They have to build up their collection; we have built up ours. Therefore I do not think that that is really a comparable example.

Of course, I am anxious that we should keep up the value of our great collections. I chink that an allowance of £12,500 for the National Gallery is derisory, and for the Tate Gallery I think it was £10,000. I understand that my noble friend Lord Crawford is so modest as to ask for an extra £80,000. Even that, mean financier that I am, I would not deny him. Therefore, we can be agreed on that point. Similarly with the Tate; I think they need to have a little more money. But of course, larger sums are indeed asked for. The speeches which fell from the last noble Lord who spoke and many others show that they have larger figures in mind. I asked Lord Silkin at the end of his speech what figure he had in mind; he said £1¼ million. The impression I gathered from the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, was that his figure was considerably bigger than that.

The only comment I would have to make upon the interesting speech of Lord Cottesloe is that it seemed to me to indicate a tendency to buy at the top of the I market. The noble Lord gave me the impression that if he had had the money he might have paid £105,000. I think that is buying at the top of the market. We do not want to become involved this evening in discussion on the value of works of art, but I should have thought that these French Impressionists, as sold at Sotheby's yesterday and at several other places, are right at the top of the market; and whether it is wise for our National Gallery and other authorities to buy at the top of the market is very questionable.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, the whole point of my speech and that of the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, was that we are now compelled to buy at the top of the market, whereas if we had a proper annual grant we should be able to buy in the ordinary way, privately, as between willing buyer and willing seller. The whole trend of our speeches was the opposite to the impression we appear to have given.


My Lords, I do not think that is quite right.


My Lords, perhaps it was our fault if the House has been misled.


My Lords, what I mean is that these French pictures are now in fashion, but I do not know whether the noble Lords, Lord Crawford and Lord Cottesloe, in 1900 were as keen on French pictures as they are to-day.


My Lords, I was only born in the last month of that year.


I rather doubt whether the predecessors of the noble Earl, and the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, were keen about French pictures at that time, when Renoirs and others could be bought for as many shillings as they cost pounds to-day. In fact, the disproportion is much greater than that. I would remind the noble Earl, who knows it better than I do, that there are great fashions in pictures, and French pictures are all in the fashion now. Surely the thing is to buy pictures when they are out of fashion.

I should like to tell the House that it is not entirely a one-way traffic. Within the last three months two Turners and two first-class Constables have come back from America; and even I, in my modest way, have bought a charming little Gainsborough landscape sketch, also returned from America. These pictures are being re-sold to this country by the Americans, in order, I suppose, to make wall space for the French pictures which are now all the vogue. I believe that the right policy of the trustees of our national museums, not able, admittedly, to afford these top-of-the-market prices, is to wait for a few years and to fill the gaps when Van Gogh is not as popular as he is to-day, and meanwhile, to look at pictures which are now and have long been completely out of fashion.

At the risk of being completely laughed to scorn by the cultured Arts people, I should like to mention Land-seer, a great Victorian painter. I have heard him referred to as the "English Reubens"—and not by some Philistine like myself but by a real art critic. Land-seer's pictures fetched big money in the Victorian era and then went out. They can still be bought for a very low price. I challenge the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, or anybody else to deny that in certain aspects of art Landseer is a great painter. Therefore I would say that, with the limited funds at their disposal, it is up to the trustees of our national galleries to see whether they can hunt about for bargains, and not be so upset because they have an occasional gap in their collection; and to carry on in that way with the limited funds at their disposal.

The reason I am against these requests for £1 million here and £2 million there, and for smaller niggling sums such as we were talking about the other day; the reason why I am against payments to Members of Parliament and expense allowances to Members of your Lordships' House (though they may be justifiable, and it is easy to argue in favour of them) is that the fact remains that the greatest danger to which this country is subject is the danger of inflation. Everybody knows that, but nobody does anything much about it. Here there is argument in favour of more money, perhaps only to the tune of a million or two; and it may be said, "Don't worry about it; it is only a matter of perhaps £5 million out of a Budget of £5,000 million." But these things pile up. What chance have Members of the House of Commons now to argue wage restraint to workers, when they have only just raised their own pay? It is that kind of psychological point which has to be borne in mind in dealing with a universal suffrage democracy such as that under which we live to-day.

I maintain that it is not for us to encourage inflation, even in a small way. On the contrary, it is for us to undertake, whenever it may be necessary, the unpopular task of arguing in favour of economy and cheeseparing. It is a hateful job, and everybody hates to have to do it, because we all want to spend money on those things to which we are inclined and to economise on things for which we have no mind. I feel very much in agreement with what has been said this afternoon, but I believe it to be economically wrong. If more money is wanted for the Arts it should be provided on a voluntary basis. The noble Earl, Lord Crawford, who is Chairman of the National Art Collections Fund mentioned that Fund in his speech this afternoon. It is an excellent Fund, very well administered, on most economical lines, by the noble Earl and Sir Alec Martin, the auctioneer at Christie's. It does splendid work, but it is not supported nearly enough.

I do not know whether the National Art Collections Fund authorities take enough trouble to push themselves before the public. I do not know whether they ought not to have at the entrance to every museum in the country collection boxes bearing some suitable inscription such as: "If you have enjoyed your visit, remember the National Art Collections Fund," or something of that kind. That might not bring in a great deal of money, but it would keep the Fund before the public mind. The minimum subscription is only one guinea, and if only one million people would pay the minimum subscription each year we should have gone some way to meeting the position. But I am afraid that is too much to hope for.

There is one other thing which we might do—charge for admission to our museums and galleries. I should be sorry to see that done. I like the idea that we can all walk freely into these beautiful places and enjoy them. On the other hand, we do not object to paying half a crown or more to go round a beautiful country house, and feel we have had value for our money when we have done so. It might be legitimate to make a small charge for admission to the National Gallery. I have had letters of complaint, and I have no doubt the noble Earl has too, from people who say that the National Gallery is somewhat misused by people going in to use the seats to sleep on; and that there are children running about inside who ought not to be there. I had a most irate letter from a lady on this subject the other day, and I said I would mention it to the noble Earl the next time I saw him. As I have not seen him since, I do so now. There are complaints that the National Gallery is not being used as it should be, that too many people are crowding in and so on. They might be somewhat deterred if they had to pay a small fee. An entrance fee of 6d., or even 1s., for our museums would bring in a very considerable sum.

In the present state of national financial emergency I feel that any help should be on a voluntary basis. Those who love the Arts and wish to enjoy them, should be asked to pay a little to do so. Thus we should get the funds which the noble Earl and others require in order to fill gaps in our collections and make improvements which are so eminently desirable. My Lords, that is all I have to say except to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, for the fact that I have to dine at a quarter to eight, and therefore I am afraid it will be impossible for me to enjoy the very admirable speech which he will certainly make about that hour.

6.41 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Methuen, and others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Croft, on a most excellent maiden speech. I am sure we all enjoyed it, and we shall look forward to hearing him make often in this House speeches of the excellent quality of the one which we have enjoyed to-day.

I think it is a curious thing that if one wandered around this House and talked to Members individually one would find almost universally—with perhaps the exception of Lord Blackford, who has just sat down—that there is agreement on the necessity of maintaining the Arts in some form. I will go further than that and say that I think that if one talked to Members of Her Majesty's Government in their private capacities they would all agree also. Yet when it comes to a Motion asking the Government to be more forthcoming with the necessary finance, you will inevitably be given the word "No". You will inevitably be stalled off with some excuses about economy.

I was a little disappointed in regard to one point in what I thought was an excellent speech by Lord Silkin. I should have liked it to be more emphatic, and for the Motion to have "moved to resolve" and to be pressed to a Division. I think that that is the only way to bring our feelings to bear with some effect. What surprises me most of all, perhaps, is the fact that the Minister of Education is not here. He may be unwell or there may be some excellent reason why he is not in attendance—I do not know. But surely in the case of a debate such as this, the Minister of Education, who is responsible for our schools, our art schools and some of our museums, should at least have been here to hear our views and, if possible, to take part in dealing with our criticisms and suggestions.

The subject I particularly want to raise this afternoon is one which so far has escaped the attention of your Lordships—it surprises me very much that it should have done so—and that is the art of literature. We have in this country a tradition—f say this without any fear of contradiction—and it is the finest tradition of literature in the world, certainly in the Western world. We do not have to go far back into the past to think of men like Milton, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Ben Jonson or the great writers of the 18th century, the great novelists, the great philosophers, the great economists, the great poets. It is a wonderful tradition. And we have great writers to-day. What is the position of those writers? What is the position of literature in this country to-day? What is happening to our authors? Are they struggling? Are they prospering?

These are very interesting questions. I have been fortunate in that the Society of Authors, which is the equivalent, one might say, of a trade union for the writers and authors of this country, carried out a research some two years ago. They sent out among their members a questionnaire. I should say that, roughly, their members comprise most of the serious writers in this country. The aim of the questionnaire was to ascertain many things, among which was the income earned from writing by members of the Society. The figures which came in were, I think, extremely interesting. There were about 600 replies which gave the incomes of the people concerned. Five per cent. did not reply at all. The 600 replies were analysed, and these are the gross earnings from writing, before expenses or tax are deducted. I should say that "writing" includes the writing of novels, serious works, articles, textbooks, journalism, and so on.

Of the 600 some 4 per cent. were earning over £2,500 gross a year; 8 per cent. were earning between £1,500 and £2,500; 10 per cent. were earning from £1,000 to £1,500; 15 per cent. were earning from £500 to £1,000; 18 per cent. were earning from £250 to £500, and 40 per cent. were earning less than £250 a year. That is to say, 58 per cent., or a little over half of them, were earning £500 gross a year, and 40 per cent., or, shall we say, a little under half, were earning under £250 gross a year. I hope you will agree with me that it is disgraceful that our young writers, our middle-aged writers, and our old writers are in this position—that is to say, in many cases they are living in a state of absolute penury.

I wonder what is the reason for this. I think to a large extent it is really due to the libraries. There is a very curious position in the world of literature. An author generally earns about 10 per cent. of the published price of a book as royalty. It is not exactly that, because very often there is a sliding scale and over a certain amount the percentage may go up. But, roughly, we can say that the author receives about 10 per cent. of the published price of a book. Now an author is not doing badly if he sells 2,000 copies—I am not talking about best sellers or the more popular types of literature. Most of these 2,000 copies are bought by libraries: that is to say, the book is sold by the publishers to libraries—either public libraries or booksellers or private libraries. It has been estimated by the libraries that the average life for borrowing of a book is somewhere in the order of 120 to 200 borrowings. After that, the book has to be rebound if it is to have a longer life. That is not to say that every book is borrowed 200 times, but you do get a situation in which one copy of a book may well be read by 200 persons or, giving a total number of readers for that book of 400,000. Yet the author gets paid royalties on only 2,000 copies—probably 1s. 6d. per copy or something like that.

I think that that is a most unfair and damaging position. The most serious writers are often not the best sellers. It is not to be wondered at that they are becoming discouraged, and that the profession is becoming regarded as being hardly worth while to enter. What can we do about it? The libraries have an added benefit: they buy their books in bulk. The public libraries get 10 per cent. off the price, and the booksellers' libraries will get up to 33⅓ per cent. off any books they buy. Various schemes have been suggested. The best I have heard is one by which the borrowers would be asked to pay 1d. a volume each time they borrowed a book. My own view is that the fee should be 2d. Certainly I think that some small levy should be paid by the person taking the book from the library, and that 20 per cent. of that money should go to meet the expenses of running the scheme and the rest to the author. It would not be difficult to operate, because a book is always stamped when taken out of the library, so that at the end of the month the number of times it has been taken out could be counted and the money paid to the author.

What are the objections to the scheme? First, there is the traditional view that the public library is a free institution. Public libraries were started last century to provide for people who could not afford to buy books, and often books were donated from wealthy collections; but I think that times have so changed that in these days nobody would grudge paying a penny or twopence to borrow a guinea or fifteen-shilling book, particularly if they knew that they were helping the author, the creator of the book. The second objection is more valid. It comes from the librarians themselves. A questionnaire was sent out to find out their reactions to this scheme. A few were in favour, but I must admit that the majority were against it. The librarians said that it would entail much more work. They were already extremely short of funds, and consequently of staff, and the extra work put on them by this scheme would make it far too difficult. I think that this is where the Government might come in and play a part. I would strongly suggest that they should make a grant to public libraries, which, on the whole, are really in a bad way. There should, however, be the proviso that a scheme on the lines I have suggested should be worked out for the benefit of our writers. I do not think that anyone would be against such a scheme.

There are alternative ideas. One is that of paying a penny a book. In Scandinavia, for instance, they already have a scheme of the kind, in which the borrower pays a fixed amount according to the number of books in the library. The general principle of all the schemes is that those who use the library should pay a small levy. Another way in which the author could be helped is by an additional grant to the Arts Council, to enable them to give scholarships to promising young authors who have produced perhaps one book and need to study and work on another, and who might well work on a book for a whole year and make only £200.

I had intended to talk about museums, but so many noble Lords have discussed this matter, pointing out the inadequacy of the purchase grants, that I will say only a few words, and in regard particularly to the Tate Gallery. The Tate Gallery have an enormous responsibility to keep up to date by buying modern pictures. They have to keep up a continuous exhibition, which no doubt some day will increase in value, just like the Old Masters in the National Gallery; yet the total fund for the purchase of pictures is only £10,000 a year. That is really derisory. As the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, suggested, the Tate need not buy the pictures of the most fashionable artists. To buy a Picasso might cost as much as £30,000, but many gaps in the Tate Gallery could be filled at reasonable figures if they only had the funds from which to buy. I agree with the remark of the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, that the Government, by giving such a small grant to the National Gallery, end up in paying a bigger price for pictures. That seems to me to be deplorable.

I saw in the Press the other day that during last year roughly £5½ million worth of works of art left this country. They were not all paintings, but among them must have been many paintings which our national collections should have had a chance of buying.


My Lords, the noble Earl will bear in mind, when he looks at that table, that a very considerable number came in during the same time.


I agree. But how many of those that came in went into our national collections? I think that the noble Lord will find that they were very few. The noble Lord will find that there are many gaps to fill in the Tate Gallery, and I imagine that the National Gallery also has a good many gaps to fill. However, I do not want to go on about the museums. Every noble Lord has supported the principle that they should have an increased grant. I should have thought that the sum should go up to £80,000 for the National Gallery and to an equal amount, or more, for the Tate. I could not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, except on one point, when he suggested that there should be an entrance fee to the galleries. I should prefer to have them open without payment, but when there is this tremendous shortage of money that would be a way of raising revenue. I should have thought that a small charge of sixpence or, at the most, a shilling, would not be objected to, and would bring in some revenue to help in the purchase of paintings.

Finally, I should like to say a word about living artists. I hope that something can be done for them, and I think that the best help would be an additional grant from the Arts Council. As has been repeatedly pointed out, the Council have an immense field of obligation and responsibility—for opera, ballet, orchestras, the theatre and so on. They cannot even begin to cope with them all; and they are unable to give any help to our writers because they just have not enough money. They do help with exhibitions for artists, but only on a small scale because they cannot afford to do more. I suggest that it would be a wise and advantageous move on the Government's part to increase the grant

There are other things that could be done. Some time ago I made a suggestion to your Lordships, and I do not mind repeating it. It was that perhaps 2½ per cent. of the cost of public buildings might be set aside for sculptures, murals and other decorations, as is done in France. That would be some encouragement. More could be done in buying statues for our parks. The pamphlets and posters for which the Government are responsible might, with advantage, be better designed. I think that, on the whole, our advertising posters are of an extremely low level. If we could set a better standard, maybe trade would follow. What is important is not the volume of this work, but the lead it would give to local authorities. If they saw that the Government were interested in helping the artists, no doubt they would be much more forthcoming in their own help to artists.

I suggest that the real trouble is that the Government have a wrong attitude towards this matter. We are always being told that we cannot spare the money for things like the Arts. The trouble is that if the Government have been very economical and parsimonious they will say: "We have had to economise; we cannot spend money on something like the Arts." If, on the other hand, they have been rather extravagant—for example, if they have given Members of Parliament extra pay—they will say: "We have done all that; you cannot expect us to do more." So, whichever way one argues, one is always at a disadvantage. I suggest that, fundamentally, the point that material objects are the only things that matter, that as long as you provide a person with a comfortable home, food, clothing, a television set, and perhaps a motor cycle or motorcar, everything is fulfilled, is wrong. I do not think it is; nor do I believe that members of the Government think it is. But we need pressure to make them not only realise it but, if I may say so, disgorge the necessary money that will help the Arts and enable our theatre, opera and museums to survive, and our artists, authors and all the creative people in this country to get a decent living and produce what we want them to produce.

7.2 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to associate myself with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for drawing attention to this important matter. I can assure him of my warm support in everything he has said. This debate has of necessity, I think, been a series of complaints and a variety of requests on one thing and another. How else could we bring in these little bits of a jigsaw puzzle, which is really what the Arts are, and build them up into one great picture, without telling the House of our specific desires and complaints on these different subjects? After all the Government are the only people who can help.

I am speaking solely for Scotland, and I assure noble Lords that the needs of Scotland are every bit as great as those of England. We must not regard Edinburgh as just another provincial city; it is the administrative and cultural capital of Scotland. Last year I believe there were 1,300,000 visitors to Edinburgh; and, as your Lordships know, we now hold there one of the great annual European Arts festivals. I would, then, briefly enumerate what I believe are the priority needs of Edinburgh. First, as regards galleries, in Edinburgh there is no gallery of modern art the equivalent of the Tate Gallery in England, and the lack of this is keenly felt by modern artists and by their public. After all, unless they are rich men (and how many artists are rich to-day?), unless they can afford to travel abroad, they are obviously deprived of that contact with the visual Arts. How can they be expected to develop their talent?

A national gallery of modern art, housing a permanent collection and with space for showing temporary exhibitions from time to time, is one of the prime needs of Scotland to-day. A Royal Commission expressed the need for it in 1930, and three Reports of the Royal Commission did the same. A site has been agreed upon by the Secretary of State, and he gave this assurance in 1951 in another place: That a gallery of modern art, for which plans will be prepared when opportunity offers, should be built on the site of York Buildings in Queen Street. York Buildings, although scheduled for demolition, are still occupied by Government Departments, and it looks as if they will be for some time to come. I gave notice of this question to the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate, and I should be grateful if he can tell us what chance there is of a gallery of modern art for Scotland being built in the near future. We see plenty of other buildings going up, but how often do we see any building being built connected with the Arts?

If we turn to the Edinburgh museums, we find much the same story. I am a trustee of the National Museum of Antiquities in Scotland, and I can assure your Lordships that the present building is totally inadequate and quite unsuitable for the collection which it is supposed to house. Here again, although the Standing Commission have twice recommended the urgent need for a new and larger museum which will allow the present building to become available for the congested National Portrait Gallery, we are told that we must wait for the City of Edinburgh's new development plan, which will not come out until 1962, when we understand that the compulsory purchase of property will be possible if—and only if—a building was expected to be started in ten years' time. So it seems that, in any case, we have to wait five years, and possibly we shall have to wait fifteen years, before even the plans for a new National Museum of Antiquities can be put on paper.

I should like to say a word or two about the Royal Scottish Museum. This is the largest and principal museum of Scotland, Edinburgh's great industrial, historical, scientific, natural history and general arts museum, somewhat corresponding to the British Museum in London. But it has no lecture hall. It is an astonishing fact, and there can be few museums in the country of comparable size that lack such accommodation, which to-day, when films are so widely used for educational purposes, is considered an essential item of equipment in a museum. The scheme has been long projected, the site is there, the plans are in the hands of the Ministry of Works and have been. I believe, for years, and are awaiting the approval of the Fine Art Commission. Yet every time we think something is going to happen, down comes the economy axe, and we are told there is a period of financial stringency. We feel rather like the well known lines: How long, how long, in infinite pursuit, Of this and that endeavour and dispute "— perhaps I should not go further into that. It is not as if the attendance figures at the Royal Scottish Museum were falling; they are, in fact, rising. There were 30,000 more visitors last year than there were the year before, which shows that, as other noble Lords have said, there is great interest in museums.

I do not want to detain your Lordships for much longer, but I should like to say a few words about the National Library of Scotland. My noble friend Lord Crawford and Balcarres had not time to deal with all the Scottish matters in his speech, and he has asked me to mention the National Library of Scotland, of which he is a trustee. We have a new National Library in Scotland, a magnificent Library which was opened by Her Majesty the Queen last summer. A new library puts on the shoulders of the trustees new responsibilities to the public. It is essential, if it is to be run efficiently, that it should have an adequate staff. I am told that the staff must be increased by more specialists, with more clerical ability, if the library is to be run as it should be. The purchase grant here is quite inadequate. It is only £1,000, and it should be increased six times if all the old Scottish books and manuscripts which should be housed there are to be bought and acquired. I would ask the Government whether they could be rather more generous to this fine new Scottish library than they were to the old one.

I was going to deal at some length with the local and provincial museums, but these have been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Methuen, and I will not say a great deal about them except that we feel that the State has an equal responsibility to provincial museums as they have to the great national museums in our big cities. After all, they recognise that by giving a grant. It is a meagre grant, but it is a grant. In Scotland, there are twenty-nine local authority and twelve private society museums, but they are nearly all poverty stricken. They are starved of finance. Many of them are running at a deficit, and may have to close down. The total grant for forty-two provincial museums is only £210. That works out at about an average of £5 per head. The local authorities give small grants, but I believe they have no legal right to do so, and often have to look for loopholes to do so, or so I am told.


Is the noble Lord sure about that? I am not an authority on Scottish law, but I am on English law.


I am told that the local authorities have to work hard to find loopholes in the law in order to be able to finance their provincial museums. That is my information. I would not say that it is absolutely the case, but that is what I am told.

Noble Lords have already mentioned to-day that it was strongly recommended by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art that these grants to local and provincial museums should be largely increased, but I believe the advice was rejected on the grounds that museum services in the Provinces are purely a local matter. Possibly the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in replying to the debate may be able to throw some light on what view the Government take today. I have no more to say, but I would just remind your Lordships that the secret of life is in Art. I think Wilde wrote that, but how true it is, and let us not forget it. We cannot do without Art. Our lives without Art become sterile and dry. Let us remember that our museums and galleries are the repositories of the nation's cultural heritage, and it is our duty to see them stocked with the best collections that we can acquire, not only for our own benefit but, in these days when air travel is so rapidly shrinking distances between nation and nation, for the benefit of the millions of people who visit us from overseas.

7.14 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say a few words about the position of the painter and the sculptor. We have heard a great deal this afternoon about the scarcity of money available from the State for the benefit of artists. I feel that the money that is available is widely scattered over a large number of individual artists, and that each of those individuals is getting a comparatively small sum of money. I should like to see some money concentrated on a few of our more promising artists, those whose work is likely to be recognised in future years—and spent on them at a time when they can really benefit from it. And that money should not be too meagre a sum.

After the war there was a tremendous risorgimento of young artists in this country. The war had raised young people out of the rut of their lives: it had given them a wider vision; and new æsthetic ideas and concepts were allied to provide a richer and deeper way of life. Waves of young people passed through the arts schools, at not inconsiderable ratepayers' expense. Since that time, young people have been taught that there is not always an entirely rosy future for artists, and there has been a much more down-to-earth tendency. But remember that among those thousands of young people there were a few highly trained and highly talented artists. These young people have been looked after very well by the Arts Council, the British Council and the Tate Gallery, who are spending taxpayers' money shepherding these young artists through their formative years. To some extent, these organisations are playing the part of the old patrons—enlightened amateurs who collect both for their own enjoyment and for the benefit of the artists. The sums received by these artists enable them to work as artists, but they have to look elsewhere to earn enough money to complete their budget. Such a system keeps them going, but it was not designed to enable them to live the sort of life through which they might turn out first-class work.

There seems to be, in particular, a lack of patronage for the group of artists who are on the verge of becoming masters. One sees only too often painters who have a fairly successful show in the Gallery. They may sell, say, half of their collection. That money comes in, then they have to wait another three years before they get a further addition to their income. When they reach that stage they are handicapped in a way that I feel is unnecessary. Too many of them are having to undergo the drudgery of teaching several days a week in an art school, whereas they ought to be given a little less load and greater freedom of choice of movement. Once the grade of recognition is reached, they will suffer no lack of patronage, because anyone buying their pictures will know that in doing so he is likely to be making a good investment.

What is needed is someone with knowledge and discrimination to back these young artists through this critical stage of their development. I should like to see the Government appoint some enlightened individual to act as patron. He or she would act like the private patron of days gone by, and would be able to give to the whole problem that individual approach which is not always possible with a committee. Such a person might be given a small salary for himself, together with a few thousand pounds which could be spent on the artists; and that money would be placed in his hands without any strings or inhibiting conditions, except perhaps that it should go to those artists who were between the ages of twenty-four and fifty. I suggest that such an individual, who would be chosen for his discrimination and his lack of bias in favour of any particular school of art or group of artists, should keep in touch with the work of the studios during the two or three years of office, and at the end of his time he might exhibit to the public the collection he had made. It would be shown to the public with the works of the Arts Council and the British Council and perhaps finally end up amongst the national collections. I make this suggestion knowing that something must be done to remedy the serious situation of British painting and sculpture today. Some way must be found to cultivate a group of major artists who will be enabled to make a real contribution both within the nation and to the rest of the world.

At the present time, the public's money is being spent well and wisely over a wide field by these various organisations, and I feel that by allocating a little more money, from the system I suggest the Government would augment the work which is being so ably carried out by the Arts Council. Thanks to their efforts, an increasing number of people in this country are really interested in and appreciative of the new trends in art; and for their sakes, as well as for the sake of the future of the British people, I feel that we should be justified in this extra expense. In this way we should be contributing to our future heritage and our future capital wealth. A gesture of this sort, made in a generous way, would help to raise the standard of British painting and would help the British artist to hold his own once more and to give forth that particular message which is in the native tradition. I feel that unless some increased incentive can be given, with some increased prospects of success in this profession, then in future years there will be a shortage of people taking it up.

The price of pictures, unlike practically every other commodity that one can think of in this country, has not gone up. But the cost of materials has gone up, and modern techniques, which often involve the use of materials for their own sake, are not always economical on materials. This implies either very good husbanding of resources on the part of the artists—and they are not often good at that—or it implies an austere way of life, teaching long hours and living a rather hard life, with the increasing cost of living which produces worries and very little joie de vivre. Someone said that the artist was the equivalent of the court jester in the old days: he had a specialised position from which he could create for the pleasure of the rest of the country. I am not suggesting that we should have a lot of Picassos—Picasso being the court jester in France—in this country. We already have our own artists, who have the British temperament; but we suggest that they should be given the chance of a decent standard of living. Picasso's art depends very much on his leisure. Most of the great painters of the past have either had a private income of their own, or have been the recipients of private incomes.

So, if we attempt to give some special treatment to our promising artists, we must select very carefully. Using a bucolic analogy, the owner of the herd, if he wishes to win a championship, selects those of his beasts which he thinks are likely to win a prize; and to those beasts he gives special food. I feel that in the world of painting we may possibly do the same thing. It may be said that in this particular herd there are a great number of variegated strains and that the situation is very complicated; but I would say that good painting is good painting, whatever school it comes from, and can always be "spotted". In this country we have a very great potentiality, far greater than there is in most other countries. But only if we can give this support to our artists will they do us credit.

I should like to say just one word in support of my noble friend Lord Haddington, when he advocated a gallery at Edinburgh. I know that the Scottish Modern Arts Association (which is, I suppose, the equivalent of the Contemporary Arts Society) has stored away a fairly large representative selection of pictures which they cannot exhibit. As the noble Earl said, there is nowhere in Edinburgh where people can go, on an ordinary occasion, to see modern pictures. I should like also to support the view that we should do something to increase the number of galleries in the smaller provincial towns. Too often we see travelling exhibitions, very interesting exhibitions, sent round by the Arts Council, and they are shown in nineteenth century buildings where pictures do not have a proper chance of being enjoyed. I would add just one word in support of the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, in favour of using 2½ per cent. of the cost of public buildings on embellishment. I know that in Scotland a large number of small commissions are being given to the artist craftsman but very few of the larger commissions which are so badly needed. I am very pleased to have taken part in this debate, and should like to give my support to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin.

7.28 p.m.


My Lords, in 1954 I put down a Motion to draw attention to the Report of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries. This was a Report which your Lordships will remember shocked the country. I put down a Motion so that it would be debated in your Lordships' House. I was asked to withdraw that Motion because it was understood that the Government were going to do something to help these institutions. From the very eloquent speech that the noble Earl, Lord Crawford and Balcarres, has made this afternoon, than whom no one speaks with greater authority, it is evident that that promise or expectation has not been fulfilled. That is why I am very glad that my noble friend and Deputy Leader, Lord Silkin, has put down a Motion this afternoon, so that the subject can be debated in its widest aspect. At this stage of the debate I do not wish to speak for very long. I should like to confine my few remarks to the Tate Gallery. May I say how pleased I am to follow the noble Earl, Lord Haig, a distinguished artist who speaks with great experience of these questions?

One of the ways, of course, in which the young and struggling artist can, and should, be helped is by the purchase of his works for public galleries and institutions, of which the Tate Gallery is one of the most important. I am glad that it was a Chancellor of the Exchequer of the Party on this side of the House who in 1946 gave the Tate Gallery its first grant. Before that it had never had one at all. Furthermore, I am glad that successive Chancellors of the Exchequer of the Party on the other side of the House have raised that grant by a small amount every year. But this is still completely insufficient for the requirements of the Tate Gallery. Noble Lords this afternoon have mentioned the sum of £10,000. That was the grant for this year, but it was rather larger than normal because of a special purchase of sculpture that the Tate wished to make. In actual fact the real annual grant is only £7,500.

As has been pointed out this afternoon—it is a fact that I should like to stress—the Tate requirements are most important, because it is responsible for maintaining not only a representative collection of British art, painting and sculpture of all periods, but also a representative collection of modern Continental art. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the Tate to feed the National Gallery with modern pictures as they no longer remain modern. That it is doing in a most admirable way. Therefore it is most important that the Tate should be given sufficient money to look ahead.

Here I should like to say how much I agree with a good deal of what the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, said—I am sorry that he is not in his seat at the moment, because I think he would find that, for my part, I do not disagree with a great part of his speech. As the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, pointed out, the reason why it is necessary for the Tate to have a larger grant is precisely so that it can buy pictures not when they are at the top of the market but when they are comparatively cheap. It can do this in two ways: it can buy pictures by promising young artists when one can still buy them cheaply. I only wish that twenty years ago I had had a few hundred pounds to invest in pictures, because I can remember pictures by some of our modern British artists that used to be sold for £50 and are now sold for nearly £1,000. That is the type of thing that the Tate wants to be able to do.

They also wish to have sufficient money to negotiate privately for pictures. I think an example of this would be the Matisse Portrait of Derain, which was bought a year or two ago for over £7,000. When the original owner bought it in the early 'thirties he paid just over £200 for it. What a pity it is that the Tate Gallery did not have a grant in those days so that it was able to do the same kind of thing!But a great deal is done now. For instance, in 1949 an important early Picasso was bought privately for a very reasonable sum. A few months ago an equivalent Picasso of equal importance—a very well known picture—was sold by a private collector in this country to America for ten times the amount that the Tate was enabled to buy the other nearly eight years ago. If they could do that with one picture, how much more could they do if the grant were increased!

As has been pointed out, they are not able to fill the gaps in their collection. Here I am afraid I must disagree with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Blackford. It is the responsibility of a gallery curator to fill the gaps in his collection, irrespective of whether he likes a particular picture or not, or whether it is fashionable or not. It is not a question of buying something because it is fashionable, but to fill a gap in the collection. An artist such as Landseer was mentioned. I have a certain amount of admiration for Land-seer. He is an artist who may very well come into his own again. But the Tate is full of Landseers—they do not want any more Landseers. What they want is, for instance, an important futurist picture. They were not able to buy an important picture of this kind by Severini, The Portrait of Madame S, because they had not sufficient money. There is no Picasso later than 1932; there is no Braque later than 1928, and there is no major Matisse painting, if I may just give examples from the three leading European painters.

There is another aspect. I wonder if it is generally realised by the public how many of the paintings in the Tate do not belong to the Tate at all, and also how many of them have been donated by private collectors. It is rather disturbing, when one goes round the Tate, to see how many labels there are which say "Presented by So-and-so" or "On Loan". We owe a tremendous debt to the private collector, particularly to the late Samuel Courtauld—in fact, practically all the important impressionist pictures in the Tate were presented by him. But, as your Lordships will remember, the other half of his collection he gave to the institute which he founded and which is named after him. These are in the possession of the Home House trustees. Most of them are on loan at present to the Tate, but they are destined eventually for the new Courtauld Institute when the new building for it is completed as part of London University in Blooms-bury. When one thinks that the Home House pictures comprise paintings of the quality of Manet's Bar at the Folies Bergère, of Renoir's La Loge, and Serrat's La Pondreuse, I think one realises that a tremendous loss is going to be effected if those pictures are removed. A great number of pictures have also been loaned by private collectors. For instance, the other day I saw in the Tate the only Soutine picture which has been loaned by a private collector. The only Brancusi sculpture is one that has been loaned by a private collector.

I should have thought—and here I am trying to follow the argument which was put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Blackford—that even from the most materialistic point of view it would be worth the Government's while to invest in pictures. For instance, the Van Gogh in the Weinberg collection that was sold yesterday at Sotheby's for £31,000, was purchased in Berlin in the early 'thirties for just over £1,000. I wonder whether the Government broker has ever been able to invest in industrial shares which have increased by that amount in that period of [...]ime. I should very much doubt it. There is also the question of the dollar-earning capacity of these pictures. So many visitors come to our shores. How many more would come if they felt that here were several important and unique pictures which they could not see elsewhere!The educational advantage has also been stressed by my noble friend Lord Methuen.

My Lords, I should also like just to touch on the question of finance. The recent Finance Bill allowed presentation of works of art in lieu of death duties. That measure was generally welcomed. I hope Her Majesty's Government will also consider the American scheme whereby the collector of a painting is enabled to present it to a museum, and for its equivalent value to be taken off his income for tax purposes. That is a system which has worked very well in America. I am informed that it is not even necessary for the collector to part with the picture immediately. He is able to obtain his tax advantage in one particular year and to keep the picture, even for his whole lifetime. Then, after his death, it passes to the museum in question.

Think of the very fine and rich private collections there are in this country of 19th century French pictures. I am not speaking at all of Old Masters, but I want to stress 19th century paintings, and particularly of the French impressionists, which, as they were painted less than a hundred years ago, are not protected by the Export of Works of Art Regulations. There are some very fine and important collections in this country. One cannot but think that some of these collectors, out of their generosity, might wish to present some of their important examples for our national collections, especially the State collections. The State, in its turn, could repay their generosity by helping them from the tax point of view.

I believe that this proposal was considered by the Waverley Committee but they did not report very favourably on it at the time, although I believe that the noble Earl, Lord Crawford and Balcarres, is now very enthusiastic about it since his visit to the United States, as he stated in a letter to The Times newspaper on June 25. But this system, excellent as it can be, can be no more than a subsidiary help to a gallery like the Tate. The main problem for the Tate is to have its grant considerably increased. The trustees have asked for a sum of £20,000. They admit that this is a very modest amount. It is not nearly enough. They need something like £32,000, so that their Gallery can be built up, and (if I may pursue the materialistic argument, for I feel that is one which particularly appeals to Her Majesty's Government) so that the Gallery can be built up into a really important financial asset.

7.43 p.m.


My Lords, this House, and indeed the whole country, are very much in the debt of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for initiating this debate, in the course of which some extremely sound suggestions and strong pleas have been made to Her Majesty's Government, to all of which I hope they will pay great attention. A great deal has been said on this very wide subject which I do not intend to repeat. I should like, however, to reinforce one remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Methuen, who made a plea for more centralisation of responsibility for artistic matters under not quite so many different Ministers. It would be a good thing if artistic matters could be the beloved wife or daughter in one house, instead of the Cinderella in so many.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, mentioned forms of art in which this country was or was not pre-eminent. I should like particularly to refer to what has been described as this country's "greatest contribution to the visual arts"—the country house, including its contents, its amenity land, and including also some of the smaller houses and buildings of all kinds—in short, all those places in which the National Trusts are mainly interested, whether they own them or propose to acquire them, or are acting only as spokesmen of the private owners and others in whose hands they still remain. I speak for both the National Trusts, but particularly for the Scottish one.

I believe it is well known that whenever the question of preserving a house or something of the kind arises it is becoming progressively more and more difficult to get together—I might say scrape together—all the money that is needed for the purpose. The increasing poverty of private owners is notorious, and there may be—indeed, I believe there have been—a great many cases where the whole project falls down just for lack of the last £10,000, or whatever the sum may be. I therefore strongly urge upon the three Historic Buildings Councils, on the Minister of Works and on the Treasury that they should make the fullest possible use of their existing powers (at the moment I am speaking only of their existing powers) and produce funds, as they have done in the past, in the form of specific grants for repairs, and so on, to buildings and works of art; annual grants for upkeep, and grants for acquiring by purchase or in other ways such objects of art, whether through the death duties scheme or otherwise. I also ask them to use the powers which they have to give endowments, in suitable cases, to properties of national importance. The well-known Gowers Report in these matters has been only partly and imperfectly implemented, and in the matter of endowments I should like to remind all those concerned of these powers.

I wonder if the Historic Buildings Councils and the Minister of Works have not almost forgotten that they have these powers under, I believe, Section 4 (2) of the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act, 1953. Parliament intended these powers to be used, and, with the greatest respect. I would say that it does not lie with any Minister to decline to use these powers which are there. Out of respect for the feelings for Sir David Eccles, who was Minister of Works at the time, there was a reluctance at first to recommend these endowment grants, but surely since those days a great deal of water has flowed under the bridge and a great deal of money has been spent Is it not about time to begin? Very often the acquisition and repair of a property can be arranged but will be of no use without the endowment being offered and promised. It may be that in some cases the reverse is true. The prime need is for flexibility in our plans and for a combination of all possible sources of supply of funds, whether from National Trusts, private sources, charitable trusts, such as the Pilgrim Trust and others, or from the Government and from local authorities. All are required to help in this vital task, and time is passing rapidly away.

I include in my plea the hope that something may be done for the open country—the national parks, and things of that nature, including the terrible problem of the prevention of litter. In Scotland we have a special case to put forward here. We have no such thing as National Parks, and in the opinion of a great many of us who have considered the matter we do not wish to have them. Instead, we should very much like to have some kind of more widespread arrangement whereby money could be provided to help local authorities and others in the care of beautiful country, of which we have still a great deal, and also of the smaller beauty spots. Think of Loch Lomond, for example, where the prevention of litter and the care of beauty is the responsibility of nobody but the unfortunate landowner and one single county council.

Money, of course, comes into this question, yet in nearly all the matters I have mentioned, the money is already there—or am I too late: ought I to have said, "was there"? Without fresh legislation the National Land Fund can be used for most of the things I have mentioned. Under the Finance Act, 1946, it may be used to recoup the Revenue when they have accepted land or chattels from executors of deceased persons in lieu of cash death duties. Then again, under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act, 1953, this fund can be used to recoup the Minister of Works when he gives grants by way of endowments or for acquisition of historic buildings and chattels. In the matter of National Parks and protection of the countryside generally, I admit that legislation would be required. But is one precluded from asking for legislation? We have the Historic Buildings Councils which work very well. What about some "countryside councils," or bodies with some such name? They might be developed out of the Royal Fine Art Commission or something of that kind.

My Lords, it has struck me, as it has struck many other people, that at this particular juncture, with this debate pending, it was particularly inappropriate that Her Majesty's Government should have decided to deplete the National Land Fund by no less than five-sixths of its total amount, without, so far as I am aware, consulting any of the amenity bodies who might have had an interest in this sort of thing—certainly neither of the National Trusts. This Fund, or most of it, as Lord Esher has said, has been quietly removed from underneath us on the plea that there is "no foreseeable need" for it. We could have taught some of these 5,000 (or was it 50,000?) civil servants that there is indeed a foreseeable need for this fund. We could have taught them how to foresee. Have they forgotten the recent cases of Petworth and Ickworth? And, of course, they may not have read in this morning's paper about Saltram House. These are only three examples out of many from the past, of a process which is clearly going to increase like a snowball.

Surely something is required—though perhaps I am out of date: I do not know what the arrangements will be—for Chatsworth and its priceless contents. In Scotland alone, there are pending two cases (of course they may not come off, though I hope they will) which will use up something like £250,000 of the Land Fund straight away. That is in Scotland only. Under existing legislation, the Land Fund, for which it is said there is no foreseeable need, could be hit twice over, first for acquiring property and, secondly, for endowing it. The Financial Secretary in another place has said that this is only a matter of book-keeping. I do not understand finance, and I cannot make this out at all. All I know is that I had the personal word of the right honourable gentleman, Dr. Dalton, who founded this Fund. He told me that in 1946, when he put it there, this was real money: it really was there. Now we are told that it does not really exist. Then in the next breath we are told that if any of it is spent it has to be put back. The only thing I can conclude is that the Treasury must have "blown" it and will not confess it.

I am reminded that, long before my time, in Basutoland there was a distinguished native chief named Jonathan Molapo who had made a great deal of money from the sale of stolen diamonds. Stolen diamonds and the money derived from them are just as real as money derived from the sale of surplus war stores. The chief was persuaded to stop keeping the money buried in a box under the floor of his but and to put it into the bank. He then formed the habit of going round to the bank every so often and asking to see his money. He insisted on being shown the money lying in the safe. I think he was right. Although we may have progressed in financial understanding from his day, there is a great value—or there was a great value—in knowing that this Land Fund was there. Sixty million pounds, I should be only too ready to admit, would be rather on the generous side, but the knowledge that something was there would have the greatest possible propaganda value. I think that the great depletion of the Fund is an example—and not the first—of the Government's lack of publicity sense. What better way could there be of trying to bring along some of our local authorities than by showing them that the Government have this money and the desire to spend money on this sort of thing, even though it might be to a much more limited extent than has been suggested? I hope that it is still not too late for something to be done about this particular point, and for some small part of this Fund, above the £10 million which it is proposed to leave there, to be kept for a little longer, at least until further consultations have taken place with the National Trusts and other bodies who would be only too glad to advise Her Majesty's Government what to do with the money.

7.57 p.m.


My Lords, I shall make only a very short contribution to this debate. I make it on the rather slender excuse that I suppose I come within that classification mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, when he spoke of "aristocratic recreation," seeking escape from boredom in military service abroad—or something to that effect. In my case, my military service abroad, I seem to remember, included spending some twenty summers or so in morning temperatures of something like 110 degrees in the shade. Whether that is to be defined as escaping boredom, I do not know. My only excuse for contributing to the debate is that I happen to be fond of music. I spend a lot of spare time listening to good music and I have on certain occasions managed to have certain orchestras. I want to suggest this as a principle: that just as it is said that a people get the Government it deserves, so every country, every community, every city, every village, gets the Art it deserves. That applies to pictures, music and so on.

It is within that context that I want to draw attention to the legislation to which Lord Silkin, referred—and Lord Methuen also, I think—that is, the Local Government Act, 1948, Section 132, which permits local authorities to levy up to sixpence on the rates for encouragement of the Arts. If a city such as Liverpool cared to take full advantage of that legislation, I am informed that it could raise £200,000. I believe that, from the Arts Council point of view, Liverpool and Birmingham are "good boys". This legislation, it seems to me, has rather got lost sight of, and not enough attention is paid to it. The Arts Council have certainly recognised the principle, and they have indicated that they will extend help to the extent that local authorities are prepared to show that they are ready to help themselves. There, it seems to me, is the sanest and soundest kind of development. If a town wants its help, the local population must show first that it is deserving of that help.

The point is, you do not necessarily create Art by giving more money to the Arts Council. You may encourage it and help it, but you create absolutely nothing so far as Art is concerned. If local authorities are prepared to spend more, then it seems to me that the Arts Council also must spend more, and therefore the Government must make more money available to the Arts Council. So the final remedy for this position lies in the hands of the public themselves.

It is against that kind of background surely that one judges developments abroad. The case of Paris has been cited and of La Scala, Milan. I should like to quote the case of the Vienna State Opera. That costs the Austrian taxpayer far more than all that the Arts Council spend on all the Arts in this country. The only reason why the Austrian Government are able to do it is that they know very well that that is the way the Viennese want it. Long before the people of Vienna had enough to eat, they were planning to rebuild that great Opera House, where to-day there is the finest opera stage in the world Compare that attitude with the attitude of any town council in this country, where an increase in the local rates proposed for the purposes of the Arts immediately becomes a matter of local politics. Indeed, it would need a member of rare courage, particularly round about the time of the municipal elections, to suggest such an increase. I am not opposing more money for the Arts Council. On the contrary, let us have this £2½ million, by all means, but let it be related to the proven needs of the people and the proven desires of the people in a local sense.

I want to make a mild charge against the Arts Council. It seems to me that, as parents of their children, the Arts, they are not quite vigorous enough in blowing their own trumpet. One rarely hears a member of the Arts Council or of one of their panels getting on the public platform and advocating ways and means of raising money for the Arts or telling the public exactly what his own council is up to. The annual report is published, but I suspect that few people read it. Nevertheless, the Council expect the public to take their achievements for granted. I suggest that they need more advertisement, more sense of public relations, because if they do not develop them, surely the public in turn will look back to the suggestion of the creation of a Ministry of Fine Arts.

Finally, I want to refer to one important and rather complicated feature of the task of the Arts Council, as I see it—the question of musicians in orchestras. I am not suggesting that the last increases to orchestra musicians awarded by the independent tribunal, over which a Member of your Lordships' House presided, were not warranted. Indeed, I understand that musicians had had no increase in pay since 1952. But there is a tendency for the Musicians' Union, which is in no way whatever concerned with the standard of art or with art for art's sake, to seek terms for performances and rehearsals which raise the price of concerts and which could be regarded as not justified. I wonder whether the Musician's Union, when they make these demands, take the trouble of consulting their whole membership. I believe that these demands are not always in the interests of the musicians themselves. I believe that we are justified in regarding the Arts Council as the custodian of Art for the taxpayer. The Arts Council is a charge on the taxpayer, and not unnaturally the citizen needs to be satisfied that the Council is not distributing funds so that the dictated and unreasonable demands of the Union may be satisfied. I think that an answer is due both to the citizens who listen to music and to the musicians who feed their needs. But, of course, in a general sense, I do support more money for the Arts Council.

I think it was the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, who said that sculpture is the art of thinking in space, and music the art of thinking in sound. Whether, in the case of sculpture, he would to-day include some of those cement blocks with holes through the middle which pass for representations of the human anatomy, I do not know. But in an age that tends more and more to have its thinking done for it, an encouragement of Art is also an encouragement to think. Therefore, by all means let us have more money for the Arts Council. In that sense, and with these minor qualifications, I most certainly support the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin.

8.6 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, for allowing me at this late hour to stand between him and your Lordships for a few moments. I had not intended to speak at all in this debate, but in view of the references made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, to Covent Garden and Sadler's Wells—and I would assure him that his friendly comments will be warmly appreciated by those responsible for the conduct of these two institutions—I feel that I ought not to let the occasion pass without offering a few observations.

In regard to Covent Garden, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, mentioned a particular figure. I doubt whether I could myself go into details without some risk of being guilty of a breach of confidence, but the situation is simply this. The Arts Council, I understand, have indicated to the Treasury a sum which in their opinion would be the minimum upon which Covent Garden could be expected to conduct their affairs satisfactorily, but they find that the total resources at their disposal are not sufficient to enable them to make that sum available. There is a gap, I believe, of the order of £50,000. The Arts Council, I understand, are now engaged in a study of the possibilities of effecting economy by some process of readjustment, possibly administrative readjustment, without impairment of artistic standards. We at Covent Garden, of course, take no exception to that. We do not know what the outcome may be. But I must say, quite categorically, that I should regard it as wholly unsatisfactory, and indeed intolerable, that the considered judgment of such a body as the Arts Council should be turned down by Whitehall for the sake of effecting a relatively small saving.

A similar situation, I believe, arises in regard to Sadler's Wells. I could develop this argument, if time allowed, by reference to what I consider should be the relation between the Arts Council and the Treasury in matters of this kind, but for the moment what I have already said will perhaps suffice. I am making no attack whatever on the Treasury. I know their problems and I sympathise, and I feel that it would be utterly unseemly if I, as an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, were to indulge in what might be regarded as captious criticism.

Before I sit down, may I refer briefly to two other points? I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, referred in appreciative terms to the action of the Ministry of Works in assuming control of the Royal Opera House. They have, indeed, become lessees of the Royal Opera House.


If the noble Viscount will allow me to interrupt, I would clarify that point. I was merely stating the fact.


It is a fact. What I wanted to add, because the understanding of the fact necessitates that I should add it, is that the arrangement between the Ministry of Works and the Covent Garden Properties does not involve relieving the Opera House to any degree at all. The whole burden assumed by the Ministry of Works, as superior leaseholders, is passed on to Covent Garden: the cost of maintenance, the cost of upkeep of a very old building, rates and so on, all have to come out of the already inadequate grant through the Arts Council to Covent Garden. That is a very serious burden.

My only other point is this. As noble Lords probably realise, Covent Garden from time to time make substantial profits as the result of tours abroad. I would take the view that such profit should either be carried to a special reserve fund, to be available for use in undertaking experiments in themselves wholly warranted but of doubtful economic value, or should be employed in reducing the large overdraft from which we at Covent Garden suffer. However, it is not so. The profits from foreign tours are added to the resources otherwise available and applied to defray current expenses. I think that that is a very bad thing and, from some points of view, a rather discreditable arrangement. Finally, I should like to say how grateful. I am sure, we all are to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for initiating this debate, and how warmly I personally support him in his plea for a more liberal attitude on the part of the Government.

8.12 p.m.


My Lords, many weighty words have been said to-day but, I venture to think, none more weighty than those which have just been uttered by an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, who speaks in the double capacity of the rôle I have just mentioned and that of a great champion of the Arts. I venture to think that any present Chancellor of the Exchequer who sets aside those final words, even if he sets aside words that have been uttered earlier in the debate, will be very rash and foolish indeed.

I had come down to the House with a good deal of material, but I will avoid inflicting it on your Lordships, partly because in many cases it has been used already more effectively by other speakers, and partly because the hour in late and I should have been elesewhere some hours ago. I had intended to devote special attention to the need for more assistance to the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the British Council and the whole world of authors, but those topics have already been dealt with thoroughly. I rise, in fact, to say in a few sentences what was said so significantly just now by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley: that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has, placed us all in his debt by putting down this Motion, and by the thorough, balanced, most effective and, indeed, conclusive way in which he has presented it to the House.

I echo almost every word that has been said by all the experts who have addressed your Lordships. I would venture in a few sentences to suggest that these propositions have been entirely made out this afternoon and this evening. First, almost all of us agree that our British civilisation would benefit immensely from an appreciable increase in the assistance given by the State to the Arts. Secondly, we agree that in this country of ours we have seriously fallen behind a great number of other countries. Thirdly, we agree, I think, that in some of the men who have spoken to us to-day there exist the means to make sure that any assistance to the Arts will be economically and fruitfully administered. Fourthly (there was a little more argument about this, but not a great deal, although I suppose it is something to which the Minister will address himself) we are nearly all agreed, I think, that there could be a substantial increase in State assistance to the Arts without any danger whatever to our national economy.

The first three of those points have been developed so throughly that I will say nothing about then. As regards the last point, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who always speaks so well, will depart, so far as humanly possible, from the orthodox Treasury line—he surely must have received every possible encouragement from the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer who has just addressed your Lordships. One speaker only, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Black-ford, warned us about the dangers of undue self-indulgence. He was a lonely, though most welcome, prophet for austerity; and not unnaturally, having sustained the heavy burden of that all day, he left for an early and, I hope, excellent dinner—it may have been a late high tea; I do not know what form of austere meal the noble Lord undertakes in these parlous times; but, in any event, it has prevented him from being here now.

I am sure we all appreciated the fact that he put a point of view which should not go unrepresented. Surely nobody supposes that the relatively small sum, £1 million or £2 million, that has been referred to—or whatever sum of that order is fixed—is likely to "break" us. However, the argument developed—and it was right that it should be developed—by the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, was that if we were to spend an amount on the Arts, we should be descending a slippery slope; that it was the thin end of the wedge, and that the masses would be encouraged to make all sorts of dangerous wage demands. I venture to think—the noble Lord is absent, and the hour is much too late to pursue the argument fully—that behind that kind of contention lies the thought that the Arts are ultimately a luxury; that in spending a little more on the Arts, we are doing ourselves rather well—we are like children having a few extra sweets. I venture to protest—and here I think the whole House will agree with me—not against the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, who is one of the most popular Members of your Lordships' House, but against any suggestion that might emanate from elsewhere that the Arts are a luxury or a frill; that they lie on the periphery of our civilisation. I think we should all agree that the Arts are part of our civilisation. Civilisation without the Arts is a contradiction in terms. Therefore, I support with much conviction what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin: that what is required is a new approach to the Arts in our national life.

I should venture to think that the individual members of the Government—and if it is not an impertinence to say so, I have reason to suppose particularly the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself—are cultivated people, interested in the Arts, who, if they were meeting us in a private capacity, would agree that the Arts should occupy a higher position in Britain than they have ever occupied in the past. I feel sure that that would be a sentiment with which they would readily accord. But one has the uneasy feeling (I hope I may be wrong) that in their corporate capacity they will be held back, as Governments have all too often been held back, from giving effect to what I am sure is their inner private conviction. If they are held back, what is it that will restrain them? It would be, I venture to think, a misplaced timidity; a fear that the people would not "stand for" it; or, if you like, rather on the line of the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, that it would be misunderstood in the country and regarded as paving the way to a general orgy of self-indulgence. But there again, I venture to express the hope that the Government—if that is their attitude, and, as I say, I hope I shall prove to be wrong tonight—will read this debate carefully: not, if you like, so much the words of professional politicians, but the words of those who have spoken to us from all the many different points of view.

Whether we have been addressed by politicians or artists, we have had almost every point of view represented in the House this afternoon. We have had what I think may fairly be called the aristocratic point of view, the æsthetic point of view, and what might be called the radical point of view. On that last subject, I should like to recall something to which Mr. Ernest Bevin used to refer—I think he was quoting John Burns. Many years ago, John Burns, the great Labour leader, used to express a desire not only to eliminate material poverty in this country but also to eliminate poverty of desire. No doubt in the past, when the masses were pressed close to the starvation line, there was a relatively small interest in the Arts. That was at any rate feasible. But now that the worst extremes of want have been abolished from this country, I think it is generally recognised, wherever we look, whether among the rich or among the working classes, that there is a desire to know more about art, an increasing appetite for art, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said at the beginning.

Though I cannot speak to-night for anybody in particular, I had the honour to be asked by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, to wind up for our side. I cannot say what is thought by the average "pub crawler" or the average clubman. I do not think any of us would undertake to offer opinions of that sort. I venture to think that the opinions expressed in this House to-night are representative of all that is best in public opinion in this country, in whatever walk of life one looks for it. I therefore ask the Government to take courage, and to give effect to what I am sure are their own best convictions. I hope that we shall have something encouraging from the noble Lord to-night. I cannot expect a final statement, but I hope that he will indicate a new approach, a new trend, in Government thinking.

The question is quite simple. In this struggle, are the Government going to take the side of the Philistines or the side of those who are opposing them? I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mancrot, shows himself to-night a strong enemy of the Philistines. He may be restrained by the thought that Samson finally overcame the Philistines by pulling down the walls of the temple on himself. I think that the Government fear that a full-out attack on the Philistines might be disastrous in ways of that kind. I venture to think—though I cannot predict any long life for the Government in any case—that their chances of immunity might be increased by a really bold attack in the spirit I have in mind. Far more serious than any Party consideration are the profound convictions which have been voiced from all sides of the House to-night. This country of ours, magnificent in many ways, is feeble and stingy in the assistance it is giving to the Arts. We beg the noble Lord to give us something to-night that will send us away encouraged, and still more to suggest that the Government for which he is so expert a spokesman will recognise that, as time passes, a higher and higher position must come to the Arts, because without a great extension of State assistance to the Arts I believe that this country will fail to occupy that place in the civilisation of the world which we all in our hearts know to be her due.

8.24 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was forced to postpone his debate. He has been rewarded for his patience by a speaker's list of eighteen noble Lords, many of them experts. Many of them dealt the Government a sound buffet or two. Many of them were so depressed to think about the speech which they all told me they were sure I was going to make that they could not stay to see if I actually made it. They must forgive me, therefore, if I do not answer all the questions in their absence which they put to me in such profusion.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, poses difficult questions. He asks me how much this State—not any State—should support the Arts. What, he asks, should be the ratio of support between the private art lover, the ratepayer, the taxpayer, industry, the charitable bodies who foster the Arts, and the State itself? He argues, quite rightly, that there has lately been a great increase in appreciation of all the Arts. The effect of the war, broadcasting, television, a plentiful supply of good, cheap books on Art, has all led to a greatly increased appetite. Twice as many people went to the National Gallery last year as in the year before the war.

A distinguished French commentator, observing the queues waiting to go inside the Van Gogh exhibition at the Tate Galley in 1947–48, stretching from the Tate Gallery half way down Millbank to your Lordships' House, said, "A country which can queue in the rain to see pictures is pretty civilised." I thought that if the queue had been matched by another queue, stretching from the Tate Gallery and trying to get into the public gallery of your Lordships' House, we would consider ourselves wholly civilised. But there has been, without doubt, a greatly increased popularity of concerts, opera, ballet and all forms of Art. I labour this point in order to suggest to your Lordships that an increased appreciation by the man in the street of the Arts, and increased participation in the Arts, is really preferable to constant shots in the arm from the Exchequer.

Several of your Lordships have dwelt on the decay of patronage. The Arts can no longer look to the rich patrons as they did in days gone by. Surtax and death duties have killed the rich patron and someone, I suggest, must take his place. This point was borne in upon me only a few weeks ago when we were mourning the death of Jimmy de Rothschild. Rothschild, Courtauld, Cunard and Beecham—these names have all an honourable place in the patronage of the Arts in this country. They have all gone. The only thing wrong with John Christie of Glyndebourne is that there is only one of him. Their place has been partly taken by bodies like the National Art Collections Fund, the National Trusts, other voluntary and semi-voluntary bodies, and, of course, the local authorities—and we give them our tribute.

I take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Methuen, by the noble Earl, Lord Haig, and by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. I am sure there is a need now for a new patronage of the Arts to take the place of the rich patron who has gone, rather than falling back of necessity on the State, not only to rescue works of art from travelling abroad but to support the new young artists; to be a patron in the old sense of the Arts, not in the bitter, sour sense of Dr. Johnson in his terrible letter to Chesterfield, but in the sense of the patronage displayed by a man who has always been one of my heroes, Lorenzo the Magnificent, who said: The true patron seeks to detect the sparkle of a gem before its value is generally apparent. Those new patrons are to a certain degree coming along. The T.U.C. has recently commissioned a statue by Epstein. Rolls Royce gives support to the Derby Repertory Company. Imperial Chemical Industries and Dorman Long assist the Little Theatre at Middlesbrough. Guinness give prizes for poetry, probably casting an envious eye over their shoulder to Copenhagen, where the Arts, I gather, are almost entirely supported by Tuborg and Carlsberg. The Observer, the Sunday Times, and the Evening Standard are offering literary prizes. The Church still plays its prominent part: Epstein has produced two of his most magnificent works in Cavendish Square and Llandaff Cathedral. I labour this point because I feel that there is an increased need, with much room for new patronage by public bodies, public authorities and industry. After all, it is the public's behest that has ousted the old patron, and I think it is the public's job to find someone to put in his place.

I turn from the patrons to the taxpayer, because that is the man with whom the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has been principally concerned this evening. The taxpayer—your Lordships and myself, that is—does a bit more, I think, than a listener to this debate would have gathered this evening. He does it, of course, at the box office and by voluntary contributions, National Art Collections Fund and so on. And more power to him!I regard that as the most important aspect. But he does it also through the Treasury. Let me remind your Lordships, in case it has slipped your memory, what actually the Treasury, the State, the taxpayer, docs contribute. There is the £4 million a year on the direct Vote—that is, in 1957–58—for museums and galleries as against £1 million in 1945–46. Directly after the war it was £1 million; now it is £4 million—a pretty substantial increase when you compare that with the fact that the Civil Estimates have gone up by only about 50 per cent.

The Arts Council receive £1 million. That is against the £250,000 they received in 1945–46. Your Lordships have heard much of their work this evening. I should like to add my tribute for what they have done in a very difficult task. They are bound to be wrong with some people, but they have carried out their task very well. Thirdly, the taxpayer contributes through the National Land Fund. The National Land Fund is something about which I am certain the man in the street knows very little indeed. There are the new provisions of the Finance Act, 1953, and the Finance Act, 1956, in relation to the purchase of works of art, and I do not believe they are publicly appreciated. It is true that the scheme was not used in any extensive way until 1956–57.

Your Lordships know the system we have. The Treasury now accept in satisfaction of estate duty great houses and their contents. You and I, as taxpayers, spent £700,000 in this way in 1956–57. We spent £553,000 on Petworth—as your Lordships know we, the taxpayers, have just purchased it—and we have spent £38,000 on Saltram House, near Plymouth, which, incidentally, gives Plymouth a fine new local museum, to which the noble Earl, Lord Wemyss and March, referred in his speech. I should like to pay my tribute to the National Trusts and their fine work in administering properties purchased with the National Land Fund.

Your Lordships realise, I hope, that under the 1956 Act, a particularly fine picture can be taken out of its setting in its house and extracted. Somebody paid £104,000 for a Gauguin. The noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, casts his doubts upon the need for that fantastic sum. I wonder how many people realise that we, the taxpayers, very recently paid £80,000 for Lord Powis's Pieta by Van de Weyden, which has now come into the national collection—a magnificent picture. Who is to say whether it is worth this sum or that? It is as well to remember that this sum has been paid by the State, the taxpayer, for one individual, magnificent picture. I must emphasise this. In fact—I am sure that my noble friend Lord Wemyss will not mind my saying this—it is the unpredictability (because we do not know when we or anybody else are going to die) that makes the Land Fund a little unusual in its administration. I am opposed to the idea which some noble Lords have put forward of setting aside a large slice of the National Land Fund for the purchase of works of art for national galleries. I say that for two reasons. The first is that I think that there is a serious risk that by so doing we shall be accused of dodging Parliamentary control. The second is, that it might be very unfair to the other Arts. So much for the Land Fund.

Now we come to the question of Treasury grants. None of your Lordships, I gather, thinks that the general purchase grants are sufficient—I am leaving aside the Land Fund grants. I hope your Lordships will bear in mind that the Chancellor will make special grants in special cases for individual works of great importance, particularly to avoid their export, though I should like to remind your Lordships that the art world moves both ways; there has been export and there has been a correspondingly powerful import. As we saw yesterday at Sotheby's at that sale which attracted world wide attention, we are regaining our position as the centre of the art market, of the art world. But we shall never keep it unless there is a two-way traffic. Therefore, I do not take too gloomy a view about the export of works of art from this country, although, of course it could easily be carried much too far. Furthermore, I believe that a fine Gainsborough or a fine Reynolds makes a pretty good ambassador for this country when hanging on the wall of a museum or of a house in some foreign country.

But I am perfectly clear as to what noble Lords think about the size of these grants to the museums, particularly the national museums, and especially to those museums who are seeking some particular work, to fill some obvious gap in art on their walls. I have brought this matter to the attention of my noble friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am not in a position to anticipate my noble friend's next Budget—and, frankly, I did not have very much say in this one, either—but he authorises me to say that he is giving consideration to an increase in the next Financial Year in the general purchase grants of those of the national collections which are faced with the problems of purchasing important works of art at present day prices.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether that differs in any way from what the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said in March of last year?


My Lords, I do not know what the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said. I have not discussed the matter with him, but I have discussed this point with my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he has authorised me to say that.

I turn now to another subject which has concerned your Lordships frequently this evening—the question of museums. First, let me take the British Museum, concerning which I think the noble Earl, Lord Crawford and Balcarres, was a little unkind. There is much still to be done there, but he did not tell your Lordships that there has been an increase of staff of eighty-one, since 1953–54. There has been a sum of £250,000 expended on work and there is being expended a sum of nearly a third of a million pounds at the moment; and within the next ten to fifteen years there will be a further sum of £1 million expended. I know that that is not enough from the point of view of my noble friend, and many noble Lords will agree with him, but it is a sum which should be mentioned and borne in mind.

Turning to the question of local museums, I would say that there are getting on for 200 local museums in this country. Would it be too unkind to suggest that one or two of them are really little better than junk shops? I would not dare say which. Your Lordships know the type of museum I have in mind—that broken piece of Roman pottery found under the borough surveyor's office when the town hall was rebuilt in 1874, and the extremely unhygienic collection of birds' eggs and butterflies to be seen in some places. It is not their fault. They ought never to have been accepted, probably, in the first place. I, for my part, would prefer to see twenty good ones made from amalgamations. I am opposed, of course, to local museums being taken over by the State, but I honestly believe that a town gets the museum it deserves.

I believe that the ratepayer must play a much greater part in this matter. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, on this point. He has the power in his hands—I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Haddington, that the power extends to Scotland, too—to make his contribution in this respect, and I think many more ratepayers, if they wanted it, would like to do so. I view this matter smugly, with a sense of filial pride, because it happens that my native city of Norwich has one of the finest provincial museums and provincial picture galleries in the country. They even paid me the compliment of seeking my advice on the subject of the Norwich School picture, so I am prejudiced. Many other cities could produce a little more money for their own local museums.

I turn to opera, and with some trepidation in the presence of the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley. I think he would agree with me that it is not fair to compare our opera with opera abroad, because opera is not indigenous to this country. That makes it all the more remarkable how much we have achieved. We have admired the enterprise, the novelty and the vigour of the productions we have seen from the five companies. Covent Garden, Sadler's Wells, the Welsh Opera Company, Carl Rosa and Glyndebourne are, I think, a cause of great pride in this country. I suppose everybody will say that there is not enough money, because Covent Garden received only £302,000 from the Arts Council. I think the noble Viscount indicated that he thought it was not enough. But it is six times what it was in 1946–47; and Sadler's Wells receives ten times as much. That is a remarkable increase, although your Lordships would obviously say that it is not enough. I suppose there is a perfectly valid argument for twenty times that sum. But as the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, asked, where does it end?

There has been, I think, some suggestion that there should be more economy of overheads in the administration of Covent Garden and Sadler's Wells. That is difficult ground.


May I just say that I referred to the fact that a study is now being made to see whether, by administrative readjustments, some economies can be secured. I went on to say that we at Covent Garden took no exception to that.


I was going to say that. I was going to say how grateful we are in regard to that matter. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is a member of the solicitors' profession. I am a member of the barristers' profession. To us the word "fusion" has a rather delicate connotation, but it has been mentioned in the case of Sadler's Wells and Covent Garden. I will not trespass on that delicate ground. All I would say is that it appears to me, as a layman, that the case for closer integration between the two companies, both in the interests of money and in the interests of talent, seems to be becoming rapidly stronger.

My Lords, I turn to the theatre. As your Lordships know, the Government have taken a major step to try to help the theatre by removing entertainments duty. That will cost £1¼ million in a full year. There is also a tax concession to the cinema, which will cost about £6½ million. The Arts Council helps individual theatre companies, if it possibly can, when they are in difficulties, and that will cost the sum of £55,000 this year. In its specialised way, the British Council helps too. But nobody can step in—no subsidy can step in and help effectively—where there is a lack of local interest which causes poor attendances. Here again, I would take up the point of view put forward in his interesting maiden speech by my noble friend Lord Croft. The ratepayers must help. Under the Local Government Acts they have the power to do quite a lot. I think that a great deal more might be done in that respect.

Several points have been made about Scotland. The noble Earl, Lord Haddington, spoke in particular in this regard. The Government are indeed aware of the three Scottish needs to which the Standing Commission and my noble friend have drawn attention. I am glad to say that progress has become possible on the most urgent of them, the lecture hall for the Royal Scottish Museum. Plans have been made and agreed with the Museum, and the next stage before building can commence is their submission to the Royal Fine Art Commission, which step is now being prepared. The other two projects will come forward in their turn, but there is a very large museum building and reconstruction programme, and in connection with the Gallery of Modern Art it is only fair to point out that the Government are at present preoccupied with the improvement of existing institutions rather than the creation of new ones, desirable though they may be.

This is a difficult task which has been put before me in putting forward the policy of the Government, because everybody, including myself, would like to see more spent on it. I have to hold the ring between the point of view which nearly all your Lordships have put forward this evening and that point of view, for which I must say I have considerable sympathy, standing here as I do, put forward by my noble friend Lord Blackford. There has been, however, a marked all-round increase in State aid to the Arts since the war. I think it is right that these points of view should be brought forward. But we, as taxpayers, have since the war made a very much deeper "dig" into our pockets for the Arts. Let those who call us Philistines bear that in mind.

We have to remember the need to reduce taxation, however much that may have been laughed at this evening. We are all prepared to economise except in regard to our own hobby-horse. Expenditure must be cut to the bone—but not my bone. We have heard, frequently, colleagues in another place say, "I am all in favour of economy, but not in my own constituency." Nevertheless, the taxpayer is spending £5 million directly on the Arts in this country, and a great deal more indirectly. I do not think that is a bad record. I think the increase has been considerable. I should like very much indeed to have answered every plea this evening in the affirmative, but where do we end?

My Lords, I have stated what I think the Government's rôle should be. I have told your Lordships what the Government are doing. I ask your Lordships to agree that it is a great deal more than the Government were doing ten years ago. I have given your Lordships an indication that my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will do his level best to see whether he cannot give more assistance, where there is obviously need for it, in the next financial year. There is further need for three things; first of all, for a much greater appreciation still by the man in the street of the Arts and the need of the Arts, and therefore of more money at the box-office, more money on the subscription lists and more money for the particular appeal for a particular picture. The second is greater support both for existing works of art and for these promising new young artists in all walks of artistic life by the new patrons—a matter which I outlined to your Lordships a few moments ago. Thirdly, above all, we need better plays, better paintings, better music, better films, better opera and better ballet—but that is another story.

8.46 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first of all to thank those noble Lords who have taken part in this discussion, and particularly to express my appreciation of the speeches of the younger noble Lords who come here only from time to time, including the noble Lord, Lord Croft, who made his maiden speech—and a very good one it was. I hope he will often come here and address us. I thank also the other noble Lords who have spoken and whom we do not often have the privilege of hearing.

As to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, we often hear him. I am bound to confess that I have not for a very long time heard a more disappointing speech from him or from the Front Bench. I expected him to say that he has great sympathy with what we want, but that he cannot do it. He did not even go so far as that. On Tuesday he had the greatest sympathy for maintaining the St. James's Theatre, and so had the Government. But it could not be done. To-night he did not even say that. What he said was that everybody else should make a contribution—the local authorities, the wealthy people, industrialists and everybody else should help the Arts. But not the Government. All the Government are prepared to do is to consider favourably some time before the next Budget—but we have heard all this before, and I do not put very much store by it. Anyway, it related only to one aspect. All he said was that they would consider favourably the question of purchase grants. He completely ignored all the other aspects that have been raised in this debate by myself and every other speaker.

I am profoundly disappointed, and I am sure that every other noble Lord who has taken part in this discussion will be disappointed too. If there had been more noble Lords here I should have divided the House on this subject. But most people have gone, and I do not suppose that a Division by the few Members that we have here would be of any value—anyway, the Chief Whip wants to get away and have his dinner. In those circumstances, I can only, with regret, beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.