§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of recent developments as reported in the Press, they can now make any further statement on the prospect of acquiring the site in Trafalgar Square adjacent to the National Gallery for the purpose of extending that Gallery.]
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR COLONIAL AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF PERTH)
My Lords, I can only repeat the assurance given in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister of Works, that if this site becomes available Her Majesty's Government will give careful consideration to the question of buying it for the National Gallery.
My Lords, I should like to ask the Government to consider carefully whether they do not think they will be despised by posterity 1110 if they miss the opportunity of obtaining this site. And would it not give some verisimilitude to the Prime Minister's assertion that we are to be the Greeks and not the Romans of this century if the Government were to use for the financing of this operation some of the £2½ million they are spending on making reserve barracks at Kahawar?
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, I note what the noble Viscount says about the danger of the Government being despised, but I can only repeat that we will consider the question carefully if the site becomes available.
My Lords, I should like to ask a supplementary question. While recognising that a permanent extension of the National Gallery on the "Hampton" site may not be possible for some years, could not the site be put to immediate use by erecting on it a temporary, inexpensive gallery to house the excellent and popular exhibitions which the Arts Council provide, such as the Renoir, Van Gogh, Braque and Niarchos Exhibitions, for which it would be possible to make a charge? Or could not the site be used to display exhibitions of open-air sculpture?
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, I would again say that if the site becomes available, then Her Majesty's Government will first need to decide whether to buy it. However, I will bring the noble Lord's suggestion to the attention of my right honourable friend.