§ 2.46 p.m.
§ LORD ANNAN rose to move, That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to reconsider their announced intention to introduce charges for admission to the national museums and galleries. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this Motion, I should declare an interest. I am a Trustee of the British Museum, but I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not speaking for the Trustees of the Museum. The reason most frequently heard in favour of imposing entry charges to museums and galleries is that in all European countries a charge is made, and if we are going into Europe all we shall be doing is to follow the European example. General de Gaulle used to describe the Americans and ourselves as "Anglo-Saxons". Without imitating Mr. Podsnap, I should like to suggest that the Anglo-Saxon tradition in this matter is much better than the European tradition. Why should the Party of tradition throw away a good British tradition?
§ Our national museums have never been regarded as State institutions, which the ruling Monarch or republican Government graciously permitted the public to enter. They started off often as private collections, and when they were given to the nation their donors stipulated that their gifts were made on the understanding that the public should be admitted free. The painter Turner made three wills and in each he added a codicil, which read that he was leaving his pictures to the nation on condition that they were "shown gratuitously". That may well have been one of the reasons that the great Conservative Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, believed that this policy, which our cities and the cities in America followed, was the right policy.1371
§ Why did our ancestors adopt this policy? They did so because they did not agree with the second excuse which is often offered in justification of these charges—that is, that people ought to pay for their entertainment and those who want to look at pictures or at scientific machines or at the artifacts of man are no different from those who want to go racing or to the theatre. But in Britain and America museums have usually been thought of as centres of learning in which everyone, from children to scholars, could learn about man's heritage and gain some new experience of the meaning of life.
§ Before the war, there were charges at the Tate on two days a week. On those days, some 200 to 300 people went into the Gallery and on the days when there were no charges some 2,000 to 3,000 people went, according to the season. Our ancestors knew that museums and gallaries are not there just to provide entertainment. They knew that people had to be enticed to come in and that is why they made entrance free.
§ They made it free for another reason—and to me it is the most important of all the reasons I shall mention to-day. They thought of the poor—yes, the poor. The poor still exist. I am not thinking only of the destitute, the homeless, who are often very glad to creep into museums for warmth; I am thinking of the vast number of ordinary people who live to-day on the edge of their small incomes—teachers, clergymen, shopgirls, widows, local government officials—those who have some education and who want to use it, but who do not get large enough wages because they work in the least remunerative jobs. I am thinking of Mum and the kids, the youngest usually perched on Dad's shoulder; of young poor parents who have to take their infants wherever they go. Those are the people who are going to suffer from these charges. Are we really so proud of this as an achievement? Are we so proud of imposing yet another regressive, divisive indirect tax?
§ Those who support the Government defend these charges on the grounds that only twelve museums in England and six in Scotland and Wales are affected. That is an illusion. These charges are only the beginning. What municipality, seeing 1372 the Exchequer grasping its £1 million, is going to resist the opportunity to save the ratepayers' money by clapping on charges on municipal museums? The next in line will be the universities. Can you not see the Public Accounts Committee solemnly taking Oxford and Cambridge or Glasgow to task for not charging for admission to the Ashmolean, the Fitzwilliam or the Hunterian? Can you not see the U.G.C. in acute embarrassment asking universities, since they are in receipt of public funds, to comply with the national policy? And can you not hear the explosions of rage from dons and students when they refuse to do so, and realise that their block grant will be debited by the notional amount that they would have received had they complied with the U.G.C.'s request? Is there a hope that the Paymaster General will prevail with the Secretary of State and ask her not to press this charge upon university museums?
§ One of the comforts held out to those troubled by this decision is that it will not affect attendance. After all, have not figures gone up at almost every place where charges for admission have been imposed? I do not think that anyone knows or can even hazard a guess at what the effect will be. There is all the difference between a special exhibition, or an excursion to a country house, or a pilgrimage to pay towards the cost of the Leonardo cartoon, and the daily entry to a great collection. I believe that people will no longer drop in for half an hour in the lunch break, look at a masterpiece, and go back to work feeling that so long as man can make such a work of art, life still has meaning. Then we are told that we must exploit our great tourist industry. Must we? Must we follow Italy, where on scarcely sees an Italian citizen in the gallery of his own home town?
§ There is another reason why I should like the Government to reconsider this matter. Almost exactly three years ago a great debate took place in your Lordships' House on the announcement that the Labour Government were going to sell the site opposite the British Museum which for years has been designated as a site for the new Library. I believe that that decision was taken as a result of an agreement made by some quite junior officials at an inter-departmental meeting, 1373 to which Ministers at a time of economic crisis found themselves mysteriously committed. These things happen in Government. But it was a blunder. What did the Government do? Well, after the debate they set up the Dainton Committee, and that Committee reported with most commendable speed. The Report almost audibly refrained from mentioning the Government's decision, but made it perfectly clear that the site opposite the Museum was really the only practicable place for the new Library. Meanwhile, Miss Jennie Lee (as the noble Baroness then was) was at work behind the scenes. She, and I dare say others, persuaded her colleagues in the Cabinet to think again, and the site was saved.
§ My Lords, I mention this incident to show that it is possible for Governments to think again. It was made all the harder for the Labour Government to do so because they had to sustain a philippic by the noble Viscount, Lord Radcliffe, against those whom he clearly regarded as his political opponents; and so much so that his speech came to be known as "government by contempt". He declared that there had been totally inadequate consultation, and that the views of the British Museum had been swept aside by arrogant Ministers. In that case consultation may have been inadequate. I thought so myself, and I said so. But there was some consultation; and, if I may say so, the inadequacy was not only on the side of the Government. Yet in the matter before us today there was no consultation at all—none at ail. I am certainly not going to try to emulate the noble Viscount, Lord Radcliffe. Of course it will at once be said that in this case the position is quite different: that here there could have been no consultation, any more than the Chancellor of the Exchequer consults wine merchants and shippers and distillers when he raises the duties on wines and spirits.
Well, my Lords, museums and galleries differ from the wines and spirits trade. There is a body called the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries. There are the trustees, boards and directors of all these institutions themselves. Is it not possible for the Government to say to them: "The Exchequer cannot afford to pay for all the improvements that we have in mind to make in our
national museums and galleries. We should like you to devise means of raising additional funds by some means or other. You should not shrink from imposing entrance charges, if necessary. And we must warn you that if you cannot come forward with a scheme within three months we shall have to take such steps as we see fit."? Dr. Johnson once said that
when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight it concentrates his mind wonderfully".
Why not do as I have suggested? Why again snub the Standing Commission? If the Government really despise the Commission, why not dissolve it? However, I believe that the museums and galleries would respond to such an appeal.
§ Perhaps I may tell the Paymaster General something that happened at King's College, Cambridge. When I was Provost there the costs of maintaining the Chapel, with its great Choir, in all its glory began to soar with such appalling speed that I became very alarmed. I could not get the Fellows to take this seriously. So I said one day: "The time has come when clearly we shall have to charge for admission to the Chapel. The public can come in tree a quarter of an hour before services, but the rest will have to pay." Well, my Lords, you can imagine the uproar that followed. The Deans and the Librarian swung into action at once. They commissioned Sir Hugh Casson to design a stall for the sale of books, photographs and gramophone records of the choir. They dragged out from a side chapel the trunk in which, in the fifteenth century, Henry VII sent the last consignment of silver and gold with which to complete the Chapel, and converted it into an alms chest; and they revised all the contracts for the recordings and broadcasts of the choir. Today, the maintenance of the Chapel services and running expenses (I am excluding, of course, capital costs, such as the preservation of the fabric) cost £21,000 a year. Two-thirds of that sum are recovered by the enterprises that I have just described, and only one-third falls on endowment. Of course there was no need to introduce charges: the mere mention of the idea was sufficient to get action taken.1375
§ That is what I hope the Paymaster General will this evening agree to do. I am asking him to retain his threat of charging for museums and galleries, but to give them the opportunity of putting forward alternative ways of increasing their revenue. To prove that I am in earnest, let me mention a few things that some museums and galleries might do. They might, as does the Metropolitan Museum in New York, ask for a voluntary entrance fee, which brings that Museum a great deal of money. They might go back to the pre-war practice of charging on one or two days a week, or some of them might take a cut in their purchase grant. The Tate must have a purchase grant, but does the National Gallery need one when masterpieces now fetch £2 million? Why is a monetary bequest to a gallery subject to death duties when a picture bequeathed to a gallery is not?
§ I hope that other noble Lords who know much more about these matters than I do will put forward ways in which the taxation laws could be revised to save demands from being made on the Exchequer to purchase pictures doomed to export. But, above all, will the Paymaster General not introduce legislation which would permit museums and galleries to keep the proceeds which they make from their publications and from the sale of objects and postcards, instead of the present inhibiting procedure which stifles all initiatives whereby the Treasury takes any profits that are made through the ingenuity of the directors and their staff? The National Gallery is able to do this. Why not all? The Imperial War Museum recently returned to the Exchequer sums from the sales of publications and entry to exhibitions amounting to ten times its annual purchase grant of £1,500.
§ Let each museum and gallery use its imagination to help itself. Here, indeed, would be an example of the Government's self-proclaimed policy to encourage institutions to stand on their own feet and reward initiative in display. We all remember the Paymaster General's moving speech on the humble Address in which he pleaded that we should try to improve the quality of life. What has occurred since? The Government have announced entry charges to museums and 1376 galleries and the advent of commercial broadcasting. Are these going to improve the quality of life?
§ Instead, museums are being asked to do something they find deeply depressing. Some years ago we got rid of national identity cards. They are now returning. Students will have to have a card. Children will have to prove that they are under 16 or 18, or whatever age one is still presumed to be a child. Old age pensioners will have to produce a card. Scholars will have to produce credentials. Visitors to the staff of the museum will have to produce written correspondence that they are invited to discuss some problem, whereas formerly they fixed an interview by telephone. Will a member of the National Art Collections Fund, or the Friends of the British Museum qualify for remission?
§ The Paymaster General must know that the Tate calculate that two-thirds of every pound they collect for entry to their special exhibitions goes in administrative overheads. Here is a Government, dedicated to the proposition that the number of bureaucrats has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished, solemnly setting up a scheme which will vastly increase the numbers of bureaucrats in museums which already, for the most part, are desperate for space for their existing staff. I wonder whether the Ministry of Works was consulted about the turnstiles in the entrances to museums. Most of our museums are not styled or built for such procedures. The sole excuse really is to get a pound of flesh.
§ And, my Lords, it is not a pound of flesh for the museums. The £1 million is, of course, to go, as all indirect taxation must go, to the Exchequer. In another place, Mr. van Straubenzee confirmed that this was so. What an odd way of going about the matter financially! Why a million? Why not two million?—for very soon, I predict, it will be two million. At this moment the directors of the museums are huddled together trying to calculate what entrance fee is needed, minus exemptions, to produce a million, when none of them really knows how many people come annually to the museums.
§ My Lords, the last thing I want to do in this debate is to pillory the Paymaster General. I want to praise him. When the history of education in this century is 1377 written the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, will appear not just as one of the best Ministers of Education since the war but as one of the greatest in this century. It was he who revolutionised the training of technicians and recognised that the old system was the greatest obstacle to British industry becoming more efficient. It was he who foresaw that if you make secondary education universal you are going to face a massive demand for higher education. He found an antiquated Ministry incapable even of deducing how many school children it would have to build schools for. He left it with most able men at the top and with a research team built into the administrative structure which could identify the problems of the future and analyse the facts of the present.
§ He is a connoisseur, an expert collector who loves the Arts and, indeed, as the last chairman of the British Museum Trustees, brought the British Museum out of its troubles. We, all of us, can guess what happened this autumn. Every Minister was told to produce cuts in expenditure, and the Paymaster General, unwilling, very rightly, to be cast in the role of the Philistine Goliath after Lady Lee's notable reign of sweetness and light, did the best he could and said that instead of cutting expenditure he would raise revenue. But I hope to-day that he will give us some hope that the matter will be looked at again. After all, my Lords, Mr. Baldwin did it. In 1923, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he proposed to introduce charges upon museums. He dropped the proposal in Committee stage on the Budget. No one thought the worse of him for that.
Since I have referred to a debate in another place, let me refer to one which took place in another place some years earlier—to be exact in November, 1601—the Monopolies Debate. I quote from the transcript of those times, imperfect though it was:
Dr. Bennet said … in respect of a grievance out of the City for which I come, I think myself hound to speak that now which I had not intended to speak before—I mean, a monopoly of salt. It is an old proverb, sal sapit omnia; fire and water are not more necessary. But for other monopolies, of cards (at which word Sir Walter Raleigh blushed) they are (because monopolies), I must confess very hurtful, though not all alike hurtful.
Mr. Martin said, I do speak for a town that grieves and pines … under the burden of monstrous and unconscionable substitutes to the monopolitans of starch, tin, fish, cloth, oil, vinegar, salt and I know not what, nay, what not?
Upon the reading of the patents aforesaid, Mr. Hakewill, of Lincoln's Inn, stood up and asked thus: Is not bread there? Bread, quoth one. Bread, quoth another. … This voice seems strange, quoth a third. No, quoth Mr. Hakewill, if order he not taken for these, bread will be there before the next Parliament.
My Lords, if order he not taken for museums and galleries, libraries and parks will be there before the next Parliament.
§ I well realise that there are very few votes in this issue. But it depresses me when Ministers tell people such as myself, "You don't count. You're just a minority. It's only the old gang of protesters who have written to their M.P.s". That is what I have heard said. Well, I am not going to pretend that all over the country people are agitated by this issue. It is an issue which raises a flutter in only a handful of the population.
§ All I ask in debate is that my frankness is reciprocated. Let us have no talk that to charge for admission to the National Gallery makes each of us value more Titian's "Bacchus and Ariadne" or the Piero della Francesca "Baptism". We do not value it more. People who say that to charge admission makes us value pictures more are talking cant. If you buy a picture, your enjoyment may be hound up with that knowledge that you got it cheap, or it may be bound up with the knowledge that you got it at a record price. That is a collector's privilege. But when you are looking at pictures in a gallery it is quite different. Are we really going to be told that whereas now we can enjoy the sensuous pleasure of gazing at the Rokeby "Venus" free, we are going to feel all the more moved when we pay 4s. to see her? If that were true, we ought to have a law to encourage prostitution. Well, my Lords, the heavens will not fall if the Government persist in putting on these charges: but to my mind one of the most civilised of British traditions will vanish and if that happens it will be a shame. I beg to move.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, for putting down this Motion on the Order Paper. I should like, if I may, to congratulate him on his most eloquent and moving speech, a great deal of which I agree with. It is a tribute to the importance of the subject that so many noble Lords have put down their name to speak to-day. I should like to say how much I am looking forward to the maiden speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Clark, and my noble friend Lady White. I will try not to cover in any detail the ground so well covered by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, but to deal I hope mainly with some new points.
First of all, I should like to turn to the White Paper itself. There is a very short paragraph about the Arts—paragraph 17—which says that an additional £1 million has been made available for this programme for the one year 1971–72. There we all sit back and cheer. Then it goes on to say—and here is the snag:It has been decided that charges should be levied for admission to national museums and galleries. The arrangement for these charges will be discussed with the institutions concerned and these charges are expected to yield about £1 million in a full year.What I should like to ask the Minister is this. Is this the same £1 million that is referred to at the beginning of the paragraph, or is it not? And what is to be the destination of the additional £1 million? Is it to be regarded as an increased grant to the Arts Council, which will then distribute it, or is it to be committed by the Minister to specific objects? It seems from replies given by the Government in another place that it is not intended that the revenue from these charges should go directly to the institutions concerned; and indeed it would be very strange if it did do so, because it is our normal Treasury financing practice for such finance to go into a common pool.
The Government are being rather optimistic if they think that the charges will raise this amount, unless of course these are to be on the high side. Has account been taken of declining attendances? What proportion has been 1380 allowed for exemptions? Perhaps the Minister will tell us. Will he also tell us what the administrative costs are likely to be, including of course the cost of extra civil servants? But, even if the money could be diverted direct to the institutions concerned, I still think it would be wrong in principle and dangerous in practice. It would be an encouragement for the Exchequer, especially in a particularly cost-conscious period, to opt out of its responsibilities, and the tendency would be to gear the annual grant-in-aid to the revenue raised from the charges, as it seems the Welsh Folk Museum has found to its cost. I will not explore that point any further as my noble friend Lady White is going to deal particularly with the national museums of Wales and the national galleries of Scotland.
It has been rumoured—and I have seen it in the Press—that the charges are to be 4s. for adults and 2s. for children. The Government have denied this. But I am bound to ask: What sums do the Government have in mind? I hope that the Minister will be able to tell the House. If he is not able to, perhaps he will tell us why it is necessary to be so secretive about it. In my view, it would have been better to have explored the question of charges first with the various institutions concerned before making any public announcement. I should like to suggest to the Government that, even now, it would be better to publish a Green Paper setting out their case, such as it is, in detail, with proposals, so that this can be considered by the public and debated in Parliament before any definite decision is made.
I have another suggestion to make, which I hope the Government will think is a constructive one. This is, as the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said, to consider the question of straightening out the anomalies over the earnings at the catalogue and postal card stalls at the various institutions. As Lord Annan said, these can be very large. The earnings from the sales of postcards and plaster casts at the British Museum go straight to the Treasury. I believe the figure is in the nature of £150,000 a year. Lord Annan also mentioned the large sums that the Imperial War Museum have to return. On the other hand, the publication departments at the National Gallery and the Tate are independent 1381 and are able to retain their money. I believe that last year the gross profit of the Tate's publications department—and a very enterprising department it is, too!—was in the nature of £65,000. The British Museum publications department is such a large one that it belongs to the Publishers' Association, and it is continually expanding. I am told that the sky is the limit here. The Government would be helping enormously if they would straighten out these anomalies and make a consistent policy that a publications department can retain its earnings and be run on a commercial basis.
The decision of the Government to introduce these charges runs not only contrary to post-war practice but contrary to the whole tendency towards free entry to the museums during this century. The Victoria and Albert Museum ceased to charge as long ago as 1914, and they did so because charging on three days a week was having a disastrous effect on attendances. Fees have never been charged at the British Museum in the whole of its history. As the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said, an attempt was made in 1923 by the then Government to allow admission charges at both the British Museum and the Natural History Museum. This was following a recommendation of the Geddes Committee.
I have read all the debates at the Committee stage and the Report stage of the Bill concerned, and I am sure my noble friend Lord Shinwell, who was a Member of the other place at the time, will remember that this aroused stiff opposition not only from the Labour and Liberal Parties but also from the Conservative Party; and Clause 9 had to be dropped on Report. It is interesting and quite amusing to see that the excuse given was the question of turnstiles. As Lord Annan mentioned, it was thought that the cost of turnstiles and administering them would be rather too high. Of course, history always repeats itself, and it seems that the ghost of Geddes rides again.
Between the wars, in spite of strong recommendations by the Royal Commission on Museums and Galleries in their Report in 1929, and by the Standing Commission in 1938, most of the other national institutions were obliged to charge on two days of the week. These days were called "student days"—rather euphemistically 1382 I always thought because they were used mainly by that now almost extinct species, the professional copyist. I well remember them, and woe betide anybody who tried to approach anywhere near to a painting that was being copied in this way! One would be in dead trouble, as I found to my cost as a young man.
By the 1930s, the entrance charges were having such a damaging effect on the National Gallery that the attendance on paying days was about a quarter of the average on a free day, the figures being about 500 on a paying day and about 2,000 on a tree day. By 1948, all the admission charges had been abolished in the institutions in question. Therefore I think it must be agreed that the Government are now trying to put back the clock, and they seem to be showing a patrician unawareness of the problems of ordinary people, or even of the functions of a museum.
I am particularly concerned about the effect of these charges on family parties, on scholars, particularly poor scholars, and on those many members of the public who use a museum in one of the ways it should be used; that is to say, popping in for a short visit, perhaps during the lunch hour, to commune with one or two works of art and going away spiritually refreshed. I am sad to think that many people who might otherwise have become art lovers will be put off by these charges.
I must ask the Government what is to be the position of those who have readers' tickets for the British Museum Library, or who use the excellent art reference library at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Is it intended that readers' tickets shall be free? If so, will these tickets give access to other parts of the museum while one is waiting for a book—and waiting for them, my Lords, at the British Museum, sometimes for up to two hours? What will happen at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where the gallery is approached through several galleries—through the new acquisitions, through the Byzantine Galleries, through the Gothic Galleries? Will one be able to look at anything on the way?
There are also bound to be difficulties if the authorities decide to waive or to reduce the entrance charges in certain cases. What, for example, is a "bone fide student"? Is he to be an art student only, or will this category include a 1383 student of art history, or a student of some other subject who needs to study the arts in relation to it? In any case, are we not all students; or do we not all try to be students for the rest of our lives? Then what is to be the position of children? Perhaps they are going to be allowed free entrance. But what happens if they are accompanied by their parents? Will their parents have to pay, or will they have to wait outside while the children go in? And what happens at a museum like the Victoria and Albert where there are two exits?
I am particularly concerned about family parties visiting the museums in South Kensington. Many of these, between visits, use the large excellent cafeteria at the Victoria and Albert. Will they have to add the entrance charges to the cost of a meal? Much of the value of the V. and A. lies in the short visits which can do so much to stimulate interest. Indeed, in my opinion the V. and A. is almost everything that a museum should be: it contains a wonderful collection, beautifully arranged, has a charming garden, good refreshment facilities, a first-class library and print room, and an enterprising bookstall. This museum has always had a particularly good rapport with the public. It is tragic to think that this may now be placed in jeopardy if people have to pay for the first time since 1914.
My Lords, the success of temporary exhibitions is often cited as a reason for charging to see our permanent collections but I do not think this comparison is at all valid. People will pay to see an exhibition that has been specially assembled—an exhibition of a particular artist's work, or round a particular theme, or of many of the paintings which have been lent by private collectors and which they may never see again. Also, I think that our attitude when we visit galleries abroad is different. We are there on a short visit; we know that we may never have another chance, and I think we would be prepared to pay, but we usually stay in the gallery for quite a long time. This is, and should be, quite different from the attitude to our own galleries.
I do not know whether the Government feel that they can afford to let us have a free day, but if they can allow us this that day is going to be very crowded. 1384 I feel particularly strongly about this matter because I lived in Paris for a time as a young man. I could never afford to go to the Louvre except on the free day, and when I went there it was so full of people that one could never see any of the paintings. That is going to be the position in this country as well; and, as the noble Lord, Lord Annan, has said, why should we copy Continental examples? Why do we not copy the United States of America, for instance, where the National Gallery of Washington is free, and also the Art Institute of Chicago. Above all, my Lords, why should the public pay to see their own property when they have already contributed once through taxation? I believe the Government are taking a retrograde step in deciding that the Arts should be considered mainly as entertainment, and entertainment to be rationed by the purse. For, my Lords, where does education end and entertainment begin?
Here I should like to quote in conclusion the words of the former Director and Principal Librarian of the British Museum, Sir Frederick Kenyon, when he gave evidence to the Royal Commission in 1929 on behalf of the Trustees. These words are still relevant to-day. Sir Frederick said:Is it desired to encourage the use of the museum or is it not? … The nation has a very large capital invested in the museum, and it is better to look for the return on it from the educational advantages offered to the public, than from a trivial taking of cash at the turnstiles.The present Government, I am sorry to say, have aroused the hostility and fears of many people who care about these things. These charges are opposed by the present Trustees of the Tate Gallery and the Director of the Tate; by three past Chairmen of Tate Trustees; by a former Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum; by the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery, by the Head of the Slade School, by the Head of the Royal College of Art and also by several of our most distinguished artists. My Lords, I am sorry if this question of the Arts is becoming a Party matter, because the Arts should be outside Party politics. I think the Government have made a mistake. We should think none the worse of them if they faced up to it and admitted it. After all, the Arts have a very humbling effect, which I think is one of 1385 their great advantages. I hope the Government will have a change of heart and admit their mistake. I beg them to think again.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT NORWICH
My Lords, your Lordships' House, I am sure, owes a very great debt of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, for bringing to our attention this afternoon a situation which seems to me to be a good deal more serious, more damaging, more deceptive and dangerous than many of your Lordships may think. Before I speak specifically about national museums, the ones which are immediately threatened— "threatened" is the only word to use—I should like to say a word or two about museums in general in this country and the very serious plight in which they find themselves.
A new organisation has recently been set up called National Heritage, which has started work by instituting a survey of the galleries and museums in this country. This survey has come up with some rather frightening statistics. It has discovered, for example, that at least half the museums and galleries are, on their own admission, watching their collections steadily deteriorating for want of staff, space and funds. It has discovered that 75 per cent. of the museums and galleries have no refreshment or rest facilities of any kind for their visitors. It has discovered that between 40 and 60 per cent. of the total collections of this country are consigned permanently to storage.
The Birmingham City Art Gallery, one of the most important provincial galleries in the country, with pictures by Gainsborough, Degas and Botticelli—absolutely first-class pictures by any standards—have recently been told by a distinguished art historian that he cannot recommend any private owner to lend them a picture for fear of the damage which it may sustain while there. In this same museum a junior assistant keeper earns less per year than a municipal dustman earned even before settlement of the recent strike. Birmingham is not one of the national museums or galleries. The National Portrait Gallery is. Dr. Roy Strong of the National Portrait Gallery, who I am delighted to 1386 know is with us this afternoon, has recently explained in public that the lift in the National Portrait Gallery cannot be working all the time, because only one man operates it and when he goes off for a cup of tea the lift service is suspended. To take the other extreme of the scale,. the tiny museum of which I am Chairman, the British Theatre Museum, which runs on a budget of about £2,000 a year and needs only about another £2,000 to keep it going until such time as it can form the nucleus of a national theatre collection, has on repeated occasions been refused any contribution at all by successive Governments.
Your Lordships may say that I have been arguing the need for more money for museums, which supports the Government's proposals, but it does nothing of the kind. You may think, alternatively, that the Government's proposals would be acceptable if the money to be raised could immediately be returned to the museums for their own benefit. But that is not acceptable either, because such a proposal would be a denial, and at the same time a betrayal. It would be a denial, first of all, of the basic principles that have governed the museums and galleries of this country since their inception, the basic ideal that these museums are part and parcel, an integral and essential part, of civilised community life in this country, that they should be on a level with libraries, colleges, schools, universities, hospitals, national parks.
It is a betrayal, because it is a betrayal of the conditions under which a great many of the pictures in our museums and galleries were given to us. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, has already mentioned the Turner Bequest, given on the specific understanding that these pictures should be made free to the people of this country for all time. I should be very surprised if potential donors in the future would be quite so keen to give their pictures if they thought that the public was only going to be allowed to see them if indirectly taxed to do so. I am not in the slightest degree surprised to learn that already one picture has been removed from one of the national galleries by the person who had given it on loan, in order to put it somewhere else where he can be sure that it will be seen by the public without such indirect taxation being levied.
1387 There can be no question at all that there will be an immediate drop in attendances if these proposals are put through. As the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said, we are deceiving ourselves if we think that people will appreciate a picture more if they have to pay to see it. In fact, thirty or forty years ago, when charges were levied on certain days of the week, this was done specifically in order to deter too many from coming in, so that there should be more room for students. And it did deter; it worked extremely well. Anybody who has ever gone in on the free day at the Louvre knows how impossible it is to see anything on such a day.
There will be a drop in attendances, not necessarily because people cannot afford to pay. Even people who can afford the new charge, 4s. or whatever it is, will instinctively think twice before dropping into a museum for ten minutes—and dropping in for ten minutes is exactly what you should do with a museum. One should go in for ten minutes and look at one or two things carefully and leave. It is no good going in for two hours. Once you have paid to go in you will feel that you have to get your money's worth and stay all afternoon, looking at many things superficially. Is this really the form of museum-going that the Government wish to encourage? I most desperately hope that it is not. Also for a great many people 4s., 2s., or even 1s., is a great deal of money, particularly for a family who like to go frequently. It will make a difference to them; they will go less often, and they will think twice before going.
All this comes at a moment when we have had in the past 10 years an enormous new cultural breakthrough in this country, when museum attendances have gone up by about 80 per cent. That trend is continuing and will continue still more in the future. With new institutions like the University of the Air, the Open University, there will be still more interest. Surely this is the one moment when it is the Government's duty to encourage this new trend, to try to attract more people into museums and make them glad that they came, rather than turning a national heritage into yet another form of indirect taxation, on a par 1388 with cigarettes or whisky, or betting or beer.
On the economic question, I wonder whether these new proposals are really going to have the effect that we think. I believe that one of our big national museums has four entrances. It has been calculated that to operate these new admission charges it will be necessary to employ an additional staff of 10 people, two men on each gate, plus two girls doing accounting. That is over and above the cost of turnstiles, ticket-issuing equipment and the rest. The National Portrait Gallery, I believe, has calculated that on a per capita basis, taking into account the substantial decrease in visitors they can expect, they will be paying about 30 per cent. more per visitor than before. As the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has already pointed out, what happens about the people who want to go into the museum for the library, or in order to see a member of the staff, or to buy postcards or pictures or slides or catalogues? Will the publications stand have to be on the outside of the turnstiles? There are more problems there.
Would it not have been infinitely better if, before making these proposals, the Government had discussed the matter carefully with the museum directors, curators and trustees to see what other means could be found—because there are other means, and there are very remarkable other means, particularly in the sphere of museum publications. The National Gallery and the Tate Gallery are in a special position, because by some extraordinary fluke they have managed to have separate, independent publication departments, with the most astounding results. The result is that in the Tate Gallery alone the net profit last year was £160,000—a net profit of 17 per cent. All of that 17 per cent. has been ploughed back into the Tate Gallery publications department, for the very good reason that clearly it has not yet expanded to the maximum. There is more room to go; there is more money to be made from this source.
The British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and others suffer from the dead hand of Her Majesty's Stationery Office. They are not allowed to expand as they should. The British Museum, even with this serious handicap, as a member of the Publishers' Association, 1389 as we have heard, are managing to make £155,000 on their plaster casts and postcards alone. But a senior official of the museum has given it as her opinion that this figure could in fact be multiplied by about five, and that it is perfectly within the bounds of possibility that the Museum should make, from these two items only, something like £750,000 a year. The National Portrait Gallery, too, could easily put up its charges for colour transparencies of its pictures, which are in greater and greater demand from the television companies who need them for practically every documentary film they make. There are all sorts of ways by which the museums themselves could produce a greatly increased revenue if they had been allowed to do so; but they have not been allowed to do so.
This brings me, finally, to one of the most distasteful aspects of the whole exercise, the fact that the trustees, the directors and the curators were not consulted. They have a trust which has been ridden over roughshod. It is their duty to see that the conditions on which their museums were founded, on which their collections were gathered together, should be maintained, observed and fulfilled. They have not been allowed to do so. They have been ignored; their trust has been ignored. They are extremely angry, and with very good reason. I hope they will realise that, at least in certain cases, they cannot be compelled to charge admission fees without legislation; and I hope that in these cases where such legislation will be necessary, they will insist that it is passed before they capitulate. I wish them luck.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ THE PAYMASTER GENERAL (VISCOUNT ECCLES)
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Annan, very kindly converted his Unstarred Question into the Motion before us to-day. That, as all your Lordships will realise, has given us a most valuable opportunity to discuss the whole background to charging for entrance to museums and galleries. It has also been a slight embarrassment to me, because out of respect to your Lordships' House I felt that once the Motion was on the Paper I was precluded from advancing the Government's case in any other place but in this House. I welcome the fact that I can do it on December 16; I wish I could have done 1390 it earlier, but I feel that we must observe the proprieties of Parliament.
I hope that it will be for the convenience of the House if I am given leave to rise again later to do my best to answer the questions that have been put to me in the debate. I should like to answer one question right away, because the noble Lord, Lord Annan, the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, and I think also the noble Lord, Lord Stragboli, have raised it. It concerns the problem of the publications at the British Museum. At any rate those Trustees of the British Museum who are present this afternoon in your Lordships' House will know that for two years I belaboured the last Government to give us freedom to keep the profits from our publications. Unfortunately, sympathy was not changed into an actual instruction. But I can tell your Lordships that I am now considering ways and means of releasing the publications department at the British Museum (which, by the way, makes less than one-tenth of what the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, says, but could make a good deal more) from having to return their profits to the Government. I hope that when a full statement can be made about increasing the freedom of the Trustees to exercise authority without reference, this matter may be cleared up for good.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Viscount? He was good enough to approach me on some of these matters. I am bound to say that he argued his case with great eloquence, and we were in process of considering it. I hope that he will be able to speed up the process.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. That means that, when finally settled, it will be an uncontroversial issue. Your Lordships must be enjoying, as I am myself, the irony of this situation. Having exchanged the chair of the Trustees of the British Museum for a seat on the Front Bench behind me, I find that my first public argument—of course it will not be my last—has to be conducted with my friends in the museum world. I wish we could come to an agreement, but I have read the Press and I have heard the admirable speeches of the three noble Lords who have already spoken, and I 1391 am not hopeful. I proposed to the Cabinet the introduction of charges to enter museums. Nobody forced it on me. I thought it was right and I asked my colleagues to endorse it. I am still as firmly convinced now as I was then that charges are right, for two reasons which I will advance to your Lordships as briefly as I can.
The Government cannot expect every noble Lord on the Benches opposite to agree with the first reason, because it is central to the policy on which we fought and won the election. But the second reason is a very different matter; it is strictly a museum argument, the force of which will, I hope, appeal in all quarters of the House. The first reason then is political: for too long the British economy has been sluggish. As individuals and in industry we have been unwilling or unable to do ourselves justice, accepting too many subsidies, too often relying on someone else to carry the burden. At the Election the largest number of voters agreed that excessive public expenditure requiring sharply rising taxation was one cause of our poor performance. This extravagance has contributed to the demands for inflationary rises in incomes. It has now to be reversed, but that cannot be done without pain and distress. The Government know this; but we are determined to reduce subsidies, to lower the taxes and to make room for new expenditure in areas which have been neglected. In education, in housing and in the Health Service charges are being raised to those who are in a position to pay more, and at the same time new money is being provided for primary schools, slum clearance, mental hospitals and the poorest families. We must therefore ask ourselves whether the Arts are a special case, all by themselves, which would justify us in leaving them out of this general strategy.
If your Lordships answered "Yes" to this crucial question, you would have to take one of two positions: you could say that you are against anyone paying more for anything—medical prescriptions, school meals, further education fees, council rents, tickets for the theatre and the ballet, entrance to museums, and so on—with the result that every subsidy would have to be not only continued but 1392 increased, because costs are rising all round.
§ LORD BALOGH
My Lords, I thought that the noble Lords opposite and their honourable friends won the Election on promises to lower prices, and all the things which the noble Viscount has just said now mean increased prices for everything. So there is some little confusion there.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, there is no confusion whatever. We intend to lower prices, but until we have the inflation in hand which was left us by the bad financial policy of the Government that preceded us, there is obviously no hope of lowering prices. All this that I am describing is part of our strategy to that end.
I was saying that all subsidies would in that case have to be increased. That is an arguable position; I understand that. It makes sense to those who think that it is an offence against humanity to add up the nation's bills. However, there would be no escaping the consequences. It would mean an increasing share of the national income syphoned off by even higher rates and taxes than we have now. We on these Benches think that such a policy would effectively rule out a return to a satisfactory rate of economic growth. It would still further depress the vigour and spirit of the people and therefore destroy any hope for the expansion, on a sound basis, of both the social services and the Arts, of which the museums and galleries are an important part.
If, on the other hand, your Lordships thought we are right to reduce subsidies and to spend more on the neglected services, then you would have to say why a visitor to a museum is an exceptional person who deserves to be put in the privileged position of making no contribution to this policy. When the sick pay more for their prescriptions, the children for their dinners, the tenants for their council houses, is the museum visitor to escape because he is in a class by himself? It seems to me—I may be wrong—that many of the distinguished gentlemen who have written to the Press have failed to ask themselves that question.
Now I turn to the charges. To require the visitor to pay for each visit to a 1393 subsidised institution is nothing new in the field of the Arts. We do not expect to be given free tickets for Sadler's Wells, the Welsh National Opera or the Edinburgh Festival, all three of which are very heavily subsidised. If it is said that visits to the theatre, the ballet, and concerts are only occasional outings, whereas many more people go much oftener to a museum, I can tell your Lordships that I inquired about that and there are no figures or surveys to support that contention. But I doubt if statistics really matter, because however many regular visitors there may be to museums, they can be catered for by an annual season ticket, which is unlikely to cost more than the price of one orchestra stall for one performance at a theatre like the Coliseum.
§ LORD SLATER
My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount this question? I have always looked upon the noble Viscount as being very broadminded and one who was interested in society, from whatever particular part of society one came. What consideration has he given, in his present office, to people who come, for example, from the North and elsewhere with their families on a visit to London—probably a once-in-a-lifetime visit—who pay their taxes, and who are responsible for keeping the British Museum and the National Gallery—
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Speech!
§ LORD SLATER
—and who have Imposed upon them this charge for going in? Surely they are members of society. But the people in the Metropolis have an advantage over them.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. Of course I am interested in visitors from outside. The cost of making a visit to London runs into a good many pounds now, and the question is whether a shilling or two added on to that is really going to stop them from going to a museum. If the noble Lord will allow me, I will come to that part of the problem in a few minutes.
Before I leave the close connection between museum charges and the changes we are making in the social services, I must mention two further points: first, the social service principle of assessing categories of persons who might be hurt 1394 by increased charges will be applied to museum charges, and careful consideration given to what those categories should be asked to pay.
The second point introduces the other major argument for charging. We are not increasing charges in the social services simply to cut the taxes. Neglected areas—and, heaven knows! there are quite a lot of them—are going to get more money. In the field of the Arts such areas stare one in the face; for example, popular or regional arts. There are some people who ask for help for brass bands, or choral societies, and such activities. Then there is the whole range of the crafts; the problem of marketing the arts, and forging a better system of communication between the artist and his audience. But, most important of all, is the museum service itself, so well described by the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, both in London and perhaps still more in the Provinces. Those are examples of activities in the field of the Arts which have been left behind.
I turn now to the eighteen museums and galleries with which we are directly concerned: twelve are in London, five in Scotland, and one in Wales. All the other museums in the country will remain free to charge, or not to charge, as they like. I shall not give the local authorities any advice on this matter. However, it is interesting to note that fifty of their museums charge now. I give the House a few examples: the Royal Pavilion at Brighton; the Bowes Museum; the Castle Museum at York; and the museums at Bath, Kidderminster, Norwich and St. Albans. Royal palaces, private museums, historic houses and the historic monuments under the control of the Department of the Environment have charged for a very long time. Particularly interesting is the case of the Tower of London. In April of this year the charge for adults was doubled from 2s. to 4s.; children are admitted half price. What has happened? In the first nine months of 1970, as compared with last year, 100,000 more visitors have come and the takings have increased from £267,000 to £423,000. The Clapham Transport Museum charges and is about to raise its charge. I will not weary the House, but I could go through a long further list.
In short, there is no sacred tradition of free entry here which is now being 1395 broken. It simply depends on where you go to see the works of art you want to see. It may well be that some of your Lordships are at this moment interested in the work of the Spanish artist, Velasquez. Very well, my Lords. You go to the National Gallery and you see some of his paintings free. You then take a 'bus down Piccadilly and get to Apsley House, which is run by the Victoria and Albert, and you pay to see a much better picture—at least, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Clark, will agree—the picture of Innocent III. It simply depends where you want to go to see the works of art you want to see.
I now come to the manner in which the system of charges is being drawn up. I am very sorry about the feeling of the directors in regard to consultation, but anyone who has had anything to do with financial legislation will realise that this is a case where consultation was not possible. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer is making up his package of financial changes, we never air particular ones until that has been composed and then opened to Parliament in another place. This is a matter of principle which we have observed in our Parliament for I do not know how long.
Of course, on the question of how you administer a particular change, once the principle has been decided and effect has been given to it, you consult—and I am consulting. Directly the statement of October 27 was made, I wrote to all the institutions concerned. I regretted that, owing to our constitutional practice, I could not tell them earlier of the change, but I said, "I want your advice before I make up my mind on any of the details of the system of charging." I asked them, for instance, to give me advice on the level of charges, the exemptions or reductions in respect of certain categories of visitors, and the desirability of free days or free periods of the year. I have to keep an open mind until I have had all their replies and have collated them. This is rather unfortunate for the debate, because it means that if I am to keep faith with the museums, which I intend to do, I cannot tell the House any of the specific details.
We are looking for £1 million a year. That is not really a very extravagant figure, because the estimate for visits 1396 this year is 14 million. Of course, charging means extra work and I know very well that the directors and their staffs are hard pressed. I know that in certain instances they will have to take on some more people. But they have all—or very nearly all—had experience of charging for special exhibitions. The National Portrait Gallery has been mentioned by one noble Lord. At this very moment Dr. Strong is charging 5s. for adults and 3s. for children to see the Samuel Pepys exhibition. Is it really a fact that the permanent exhibitions in his Gallery are not worth some portion of that 3s. paid for each child? I really do not think there is any principle at all here.
The next question is: what should be done with the money collected? I have the greatest sympathy with those who ask for the proceeds of charging to be added to the grants received from the Goverment. This demand springs from the fact, of which I have had hard personal experience, that in the past the grants have always fallen far short of what every trustee knew could be spent with advantage to the public. Therefore, any prospect of getting more is welcomed without a second thought. But taking a realistic view of their financial requirements, I must say that to earmark the proceeds of the charges for some purpose to be agreed upon with each museum would swiftly prove to be either unwise or unnecessary. What is collected may be more or less than what is required, either for a specific purpose or for the general needs of the museum. There could be no guarantee that the money was used for the highest priorities, which might well change from time to time.
But I think the point which the House will most appreciate is this. Even if the Government were prepared to abandon the sound financial practice of not earmarking the proceeds of a charge, it would in this case make very little or no difference. This is because museum grants are not static. If they were, then, conceivably, there might be a firm prospect of increasing the total by adding the proceeds of the charges. But the fact is that museum grants are already rising and must go on rising, and if the economy recovers—and this is part of our policy for seeing that the economy does recover—the rate of increase could 1397 and should be sharply improved. That being the situation, there is no means of binding any Government to take account of the charges, when, anyway, they will have to increase the Vote by more than the sum collected.
I know there are some people close to the museums who think that we could get round this dilemma if the £1 million collected in charges were earmarked for acquisitions, and acquisitions only. I should be very much against this, because I do not consider that acquisitions are now the first priority. The museums stand in much greater need of resources to make the best use of the collections which they already possess. Consider, my Lords, the situation at the National Gallery. For the price of Velasquez's portrait of Juan de Pareja, the National Gallery could air-condition all its galleries which are not now air-conditioned—that would cost about £350,000—and it could build its new wing, the plans of which your Lordships may recently have seen. That would give it an increase of 25 per cent. in gallery space for its permanent collection with 10 large, new air-conditioned galleries. It would also give it almost exactly the same amount of space for its reserve collection, which could then be shown to the public. After all that, it would still have £750,000 in hand. That is the measure of the priorities of our national museums.
Of course, not everyone agrees with that. Those who live and work in museums want passionately to acquire more objects. They comb the salerooms and they curse their rivals. I myself am a shameless magpie. My heart contracts in pain when I see knocked down to someone else something which I want. But in Parliament we must control our passions, do our homework and accurately distinguish between wants and needs. Your Lordships may remember the fat man who said that what he wanted was more and more food and drink, only to be told that what he needed was more exercise and no potatoes. We have to deal with some people of that nature.
Your Lordships will have noticed that in the Health Service and in education the proceeds of the charges which are being increased are not specifically allocated to hospitals or primary schools. 1398 This is good financial practice, and it has aroused comparatively little attention. I think this is because these two Social Services have an advantage over museums and galleries. My two right honourable friends who are concerned with health and education had plans worked out for the improvements they wished to make in areas that have been neglected. No such comprehensive plan yet exists for the museum service. Therefore, I can give the House only a tentative description of what is now required.
I notice that many of those who object to charging are people who have grown to love the museums as they are. When they get inside the doors they know what they want to see, they know a good deal about it, and if they do not the keeper or someone is always there to look after them. I think that these distinguished gentlemen may well be underestimating the demands of the general public, who are already visiting museums during the summer in numbers which obstruct their enjoyment and education. Now no one expects these crowds and their demands on the museum service to stand still. As the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, said, they go on growing. We must expect them to, because millions of children are being introduced to art in the schools, because travel within this country and from abroad to this country is easy now, and because incomes are higher. Incidentally, they are nowhere higher, nowhere has the rise been greater, than in the pocket-money given to children and in the earnings of teenagers. One has only to stand, as I have quite often done, in the cafeteria of one of the national museums and watch what the children spend on the food, chocolate, et cetera, that they buy. I am delighted; but it is not true to say that they have not got a shilling in their pockets, or much more.
Individuals, groups, schools, families, all plan expeditions to museums; and, when they get there, what should they find? First of all, adequate space in which to see all the finest objects in the collection well displayed; then, information about the exhibits and someone on hand to answer their questions; then, postcards, photographs, books and reproductions; and, finally, amenities such as restaurants, a cafeteria, cloakrooms, rest-rooms and parking places. These are services additional to those which the scholar 1399 and the connoisseur asked for in the past. With their existing space and staff, our national museums have carried on extraordinarily well, but not one of them can provide the full range of services which the scholars and the general public will demand more insistently every year that passes.
Your Lordships may be interested to know that the major building works already in hand for the national museums and galleries will cost about £4¾ million, and that, in addition, there are several large schemes well advanced in planning but not authorised to start. The cost of these schemes is likely to exceed £10 million, and once the buildings are completed the recurrent grants will have to be increased to meet the extra running costs. Quite apart from the major buildings, the museums and galleries have a long waiting list of minor works which would enable them to make much better use of their existing buildings. If the British Museum is any example, many of these minor works ought to have been done years and years ago. In the current financial year over £200,000 is being spent on minor works.
But all these plans, large and small, authorised and unauthorised, are not yet welded into a programme within which the long-term priorities can be firmly established. We must embark on this study, and when we do it we are very likely to find that a great deal more wants doing than the Department or some of the museums at present appreciate. The money required, if the programme is to make reasonable progress—I am not talking about their current grants; I am talking now about the capital programme for these museums—will very substantially exceed the £1 million a year to be collected in charges.
But that is only part of the story. There is another aspect of the museum service which at first sight may not appear to have anything to do with charging for the national museums. The 18 national museums are in good shape if one is content with the service they offer now, but this cannot be said of many of the museums in the Provinces. Here, I entirely agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich: he did not overstate the position. Drama and music in the Provinces have been helped, very generously 1400 helped, with grants from the Arts Council, but not the museums. From central funds they have only a very modest grant—£150,000 a year, I think—for acquisitions. We must examine this problem in depth, and, clearly, the relations between the national museums and the provincial museums ought to be a factor in promoting the welfare of the latter.
So, with the help of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries, the Museums Association, the local authorities in the whole of the country and the other bodies principally concerned, I am about to set on foot the necessary surveys and studies. I imagine that this examination will take us at least a year, but until it is completed we cannot know the magnitude of the work to be done; nor how much it will cost; nor what kind of timetable to propose. But I can say that the Government will be prepared to look sympathetically at this programme, taking full account on the credit side of the sums collected in charges.
§ LORD DIAMOND
My Lords, if the noble Viscount will forgive me for interrupting him, will he say what he means by that last sentence? He has just explained (absolutely accurately, with respect) that the one has nothing to do with the other, that the receipts have nothing to do with the payments, and that the charges cannot be earmarked. What, then, did the noble Viscount intend us to understand by his last sentence?
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, I am glad to have a chance to clarify that. What I intended to tell the House is this. We do not know how much, but we know that it will be a very large sum that one day will have to be spent on the modernisation of the national galleries and, particularly, of the provincial ones as well. When that programme is laid out, the fact that income is coming in from the charges will make a difference to the speed (I should think it is to the speed that it will really make a difference) with which the programme can be carried through; and I must say that I find that very satisfactory.
My Lords, I must try to come to an end; I have talked rather a long time. But charging for entrance does not destroy any principle. It takes its place in our general strategy for strengthening the economy. It will do something else: 1401 it will create an interest in museums much more lively and critical than at present. I was rather surprised to see my friend Sir Trenchard Cox writing to The Times to say that paying for a service does not increase the interest of the consumer in the service concerned. My Lords, that is a view contrary to the experience of the rough world, from which Sir Trenchard has happily been sheltered. Your Lordships will agree, I think, that the mere proposal to introduce charges has uncorked a concern for the national museums far greater than all the propaganda that the directors and the trustees ever made in the past. That is all to the good. The Minister responsible, whoever he may be, when this large programme gets under way, is going to find it much easier to get the money when there is wider support from the general public.
It could be that your Lordships feel that there is nothing substantial in what I have said about getting more money for museums in the future. You may believe that circumstances and Ministers are now so tough that the Arts will have to mark time indefinitely. If so, I think I can offer a proof to the contrary. Last week I told the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, what the Arts Council grant would be for 1971–72. The House will remember that in the period from 1967 to 1971 the Arts Council grant rose from £7.2 million to £9.3 million; that is, about £2.1 million over the four years. Against the £9.3 million for this year, the grant next year will be £11.9 million—a rise of £2.6 million in one year. There can be no reason why museums and galleries should not do equally well once we have this comprehensive programme and once we have charges bringing in £1 million towards the much larger sums that I am determined to secure if I can. This is a very sensible reform for which there is no case for reconsideration. My Lords, a vote for charges is a vote for the best interests of the museums—if I did not believe that, I should not be standing here. So I ask your Lordships to endorse this policy.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ LORD CLARK
My Lords, it is now over a year since I had the honour of being introduced into your Lordships' House. In the course of that year hardly a single topic has been debated on which 1402 I could have felt myself qualified to open my mouth. However, I cannot plead inexperience of the subject under debate this evening. My only fear is that I shall not be able to conform to what I believe is the unwritten law when anyone makes a maiden speech; because, in addition to numerous ineptitudes, I am afraid that I shall have to say some things which the noble Viscount the Paymaster General may consider controversial.
The subject of admission charges has been debated ever since I first entered the world of museums and galleries about forty years ago, and in the many debates that I have heard among my colleagues and friends in the Arts world I have never heard agreement. For that reason, unlike the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, I am rather inclined to sympathise with the desire of the noble Viscount the Paymaster General to bring this matter forward without consulting the museums and galleries concerned—because it would have taken an eternity and would have led to no agreement.
I myself have had to take a direct part in this matter because when I was at the National Gallery we had two paying days. As the noble Lord, Lord Annan, reminded the House, those paying days were not intended to raise money; in fact, the sum raised was derisory. They were intended to keep people out. And although the entrance fee was only sixpence, it did keep them out. The attendance on those days was often less than a third, or even a quarter, of that on free days. I should add that, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, the object was that copyists should be able on those days to work in the Gallery. That seemed to me to be a very inadequate excuse. The number of copyists in the Gallery declined, and in 1937 I was able to persuade the Trustees that those paying days should be abolished. They were: in 1938.
My Lords, times have changed. Artists no longer learn to paint by copying old masters—they did so in diminishing numbers forty years ago. To-day, far more people go to galleries. They wander in and out of them, in very much the same spirit as men and women of an earlier age used to wander in and out of churches and cathedrals—and still do in Latin countries and in Poland—and unquestionably derive from this some of 1403 the same feelings. They leave behind their material cares; they feel themselves in the presence of something greater than themselves, and they learn about the history and development of the human spirit. Young people, who, as we know, are in the habit of making demonstrations, have never, so far as I know, made a demonstration in an art gallery. Indeed, the only demonstration that I can remember was made by old people led by the daughter of Holman Hunt, who just after the war made a violent protest in an exhibition of Matisse and Picasso in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
I do not think that anyone to-day would wish to make a policy of excluding people, young or old, from these life-giving experiences. So the first question we must ask ourselves is whether an entrance fee will be a serious deterrent. This, too, is a subject on which we are not likely to get agreement, or indeed proof: because even if the numbers go up after the entrance fee has been introduced in the rapidly increasing number of museums and galleries it will be no proof.
Members of Her Majesty's Government believe that people enjoy paying for things—or, rather, that they enjoy things more if they have paid for them. Unlike Sir Trenchard Cox, I have not led a sheltered life. No one who has been the first Chairman of the Independent Television Authority could claim that. I am still unconvinced that people enjoy paying for things. It is true, of course, that people will pay quite large sums to see special exhibitions; but I do not think they will enjoy paying to go into the national museums and galleries. Of course a majority will pay, somewhat resentfully, but a very considerable minority will simply not be able to afford it.
I am delighted to think that the noble Viscount the Paymaster General has found children so extravagant in the purchase of choc-bars and other agreeable things at canteens. I must say that I am not now thinking of children with pocket money, or of students, but of young people, often young married people, setting out in life. They live on a very narrow margin. As almost every speaker this evening has pointed out, they are usually people who can go to galleries 1404 for only a short time, perhaps during the luncheon interval. Many form the habit of running in and out of the galleries several times a week. For such people the expenditure of, say, 12s. a week would be a real hardship. I am speaking of the ordinary man, of men and women who love art but do not practise it.
I might venture to speak—although I know it is not fashionable—of extraordinary men and women; that is to say, artists and poets who (although artists no longer copy old masters) draw their inspiration from visiting galleries and to whom a visit to the National Gallery or the Tate is the breath of life. Many of your Lordships will have seen a letter this morning from two of the certainly most distinguished English painters. They are men who could undoubtedly afford 4s. But there are a great many other young painters, in the position of having left college and trying to make their way in the world, to whom an admission charge would be a real hardship. And I may add that there are many middle-aged painters who have gone out of fashion but who still do excellent work and are rather hard up.
Your Lordships will see that I am assuming that the entrance ice will be 4s. I do so partly because of various statements that have been made, and also because I cannot imagine that a smaller entrance fee would be worth collecting. The noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, has already spoken about the extremely cumbersome and expensive methods by which this tax—because that is all it is—will be collected, with turnstiles, passport photographs, a complicated system of exemptions and all the rest. All this seems to me to make it very doubtful how far an admission charge can be a worthwhile source of revenue.
The noble Viscount the Paymaster General has already made it perfectly clear that with an expenditure of over £14 million, and with the capital charges which will come later, the most that can be expected from the charges is £1 million. But it is not the sum raised that is important: it is the attitude of mind of the visitors to museums. I must say that this approach does not altogether appeal to me. Look at it in reverse. It says, in effect, that if you do not pay admission charges to prove that you are 1405 a good citizen, you will not get extra grants. This is not a financial proposition at all. It is a moral-social proposition: people must pay for their enjoyments. But in that case, as has already been said, why not charge for admission to parks, which are also kept up by public money? The answer is that too many people enjoy them to make this a politically acceptable proposal.
I confess that the principles involved in this debate are not at all clear cut and are far more dependent on emotion and tradition than on logic. No-one, I trust, will ever suggest that we pay to go into libraries—that is to say, that when we try to educate ourselves and achieve enlightenment through the printed page, we get in free. On the other hand, no-one suggests that all concerts should be free. When we try to enlarge and deepen our experience by listening to great music, we expect to pay for it, although in fact orchestras, and still more operas are provided with large Government funds. There is no logic in this.
I do not know if anything worth calling a principle can be based purely on emotion. But I must say that my feelings where museums and galleries are concerned are strongly opposed to admission charges. I say this regretfully, because I am sorry to find myself on the opposite side of an argument to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, who did such wonderful work as Chairman of the British Museum. He worked harder, more imaginatively and more effectively than any Chairman we have ever had. My Lords, I believe that free admission to museums and galleries is something of which this country should be proud. It is part of our great effort to provide higher education for as many as care to take advantage of it, and to abandon it would be a retrograde step. It would be particularly unwelcome after the really splendid help and encouragement given to the Arts during the last five years by the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge.
I should not like to think that in a time of financial crisis (and, though we do not always like to admit it, we are in a time of financial crisis) museums and galleries, and art lovers in general, should not act with a sense of responsibility and should not in any way try to help them 1406 selves. I will not say any more about publication, because the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, has already told us at some length about that, except that I would add that the extraordinary situation at the Tate and the National Gallery was due to the fact that we founded our publications department by borrowing from a trust fund. It therefore escaped the notice or the vigilance of the Exchequer, and we had developed the department so well that they had not the heart to take it away from us. Nevertheless, I think that other means which have been suggested by one or two speakers this afternoon, including the noble Viscount the Paymaster General, are worth considering.
In the past twenty years the prices of works of art have reached proportions which the average man regards as ridiculous, or even repulsive. They reflect a form of financial activity similar to that of gambling on the Stock Exchange. Can ordinary people read about these prices without thinking how the money could have been used in social or human terms: the founding of a college, the improvement of housing, the amelioration of prison conditions, and all the other things of which we stand so sorely in need. I believe that these inflated prices must be seen in relation to the enormous riches of our national collections. Perhaps no-one who has not worked in our public gallery national collections realises how colossally rich they are; and how many of the contents are out of sight. In what are popularly called the cellars of out galleries—professionally known as reference sections or study collections—there are large numbers of works of art which, if they were to appear in the auction rooms, would cause an outcry that they should be bought for the nation. This is no exaggeration. Out of sight, out of mind!
The wonderful Greek marbles in the British Museum, the Neriad monument and the frieze of the Temple of Pan were in the 'Tube for thirty years, and no-one uttered a word of protest. Had they been in the Townley Collection, or some private collection in England, and been put up for sale, it would have been a national scandal if they had not been bought. There they were sitting all the time. Now, I am thankful to say, with the help of the noble Viscount, the Paymaster 1407 General, they are most splendidly displayed.
When it was recently suggested that the nation should buy the Radnor Velasquez I suppose all of us thought, as has already been said, of the magnificent Velasquez in the Wellington Museum at Apsley House, which is a peaceful place to spend half an hour but also, to a lover of art, a somewhat melancholy one because it is attended by only a handful of people. Of course gallery directors like to maintain that galleries live by their acquisitions; that acquisitions show that a gallery is alive. But there are other ways. The recent cleaning of Raphael's portrait of Julius II, which had been down in the reference section, I may say, ever since I left the Gallery, is in effect a new acquisition, and an acquisition beyond all price. In any case, the people I am thinking of—the ordinary people who go to the gallery several times a week, for peace, enlightenment and refreshment of spirit—are not particularly in need of new acquisitions. It will take them many years before they become familiar with the pictures already on exhibition.
So, if the Government wish those of us who are lovers of art to make some sacrifice in order to show our sense of social responsibility at a time of crisis, I would far rather they urged us to deny ourselves new acquisitions than to penalise or alienate those very people who would most wish to be enjoying the inexhaustible riches of our national collections. I thank your Lordships for your kindness and indulgence in listening to my first speech in your Lordships' House.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, I cannot imagine a greater privilege than being able to thank the noble Lord, Lord Clark, for his magnificent maiden speech. On such an occasion one always says this, but I say to-day with absolute sincerity that I hope very much that we shall hear him many times again. I am also grateful to the noble Lord because he has said a great deal of what I was going to say, so saving the time of the House and helping us to get a Division at a reasonable hour.
This is not supposed to be a Party issue. The debate has been introduced from the Cross Benches, and I think that 1408 all of us would have liked to treat it as anything but a Party issue. But it does become a Party issue when we find that the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, says he does not think there is any principle involved. The only reason why I am on my feet is because there is an enormous principle involved. I think it is a great matter of principle, not only in the traditional sense of throwing away something for which we have admired ourselves, and other people have admired us for having, but also because I think it is a basic principle that in this (as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Clark, has said), people do get, through the free access to museums and galleries, opportunities of being exposed, as I was, and I think many of us were, to experiences which may have coloured and changed our lives.
I can assure your Lordships, without playing the barefoot boy or anything else, that I should not have been exposed to art galleries if I had had to pay to go into them. Therefore we are talking about something which has the elements of an absolutely basic principle—namely, the right of people to participate in our national cultural wealth and to have the opportunity of expanding their outlook. I may say, before I sit down, that I have had a foreboding of this day even since noble Lords discovered that they could make a lot of money out of converting their stately homes into menageries.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I should like first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Clark, on his admirable maiden speech and to say that I should always be happy to listen to him speaking on the television and to pay a surcharge for the privilege and pleasure of doing so. It would be very good value. Then I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Eccles for his admirable exposition of Government policy on this difficult subject, which has been so well debated from the other side. I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, for giving us the chance to discuss this matter, and I would congratulate him on his extremely able speech in which he put the arguments for his side most persuasively.
I want to say a few words in support of my noble friend Lord Eccles—not that he needs my support. I shall follow precisely the same line that he did, but 1409 quite briefly, first on the economic and then on the artistic aspect. It is quite impossible to judge the merits of this argument without looking at the Government's economic policy. I should not expect noble Lords opposite to agree with the Government's economic policy, but it was indeed, as my noble friend has said, a large part of the argument on which we won the recent General Election. We believe that the policy that my right honourable friends are now introducing is one which will be for the benefit of the country and will achieve the growth that has been denied to us, despite the best efforts of noble Lords opposite and their right honourable friends. We believe that these policies will achieve this end, but in order to do so it is essential to reduce the present level of public expenditure so that we can get the elbow room to reduce personal taxation. This, as my noble friend Lord Eccles rightly said, initially means that inevitably there will be sacrifices almost right across the board. With a good deal of ingenuity my noble friend and my right honourable friends in another place have been able to find ways and means of helping those most in need: and very glad I am that they have been able to do so. But it still means that right across the rest of the board, in almost every sector of public expenditure, sacrifices are having to be faced.
My noble friend rightly posed the question: Is Art a special case? However devoted we may be to the Arts—and nobody is more devoted to them than my noble friend Lord Eccles—we simply cannot say that it is. Having accepted, as I do accept, that context, the arguments then begin to run from there that we must look at this subject objectively in the context of a radical change in the economic and financial policy of this country, where we believe that we are moving to a state where more money will be left in the pockets of the people out of their earnings and less will be taken by the State.
The noble Lord, Lord Clark, cunningly posed the question: Will people really enjoy the Arts more if they have to pay for them? Do people really enjoy something more if they have paid for it? But that is really only half the question. The other half is that with the success of our economic policy the man in the street 1410 and indeed the woman in the street, will have more money in their pocket and be able to decide themselves how they want to spend it. So they will have more with which to go to an art gallery or anything which takes their fancy. That is the real issue that we have before us in this economic context.
There are just three short points that I wish to make about the revenue. I should have thought that the £1 million a year net that my noble friend is aiming to collect will make a significant and useful contribution—although, of course, in the total context of £14 million a year which is being spent on these institutions it is only a small one, and especially in the context of the large capital programme which my noble friend indicated we face and which, as our fortunes improve over the coming years, I trust he will undertake: and nobody is better equipped than he is to do so. But how right he is to say that the patrons of art galleries to-day are quite different from what they were thirty or forty years ago, before the war, and are changing all the time. Family parties, mothers, fathers and children, are coming for a day's outing: they want somewhere to leave the car, to go to a restaurant for a meal, and so on. Hardly any of these things exist, and we want to see them added as valuable and expensive ancillaries to our museums and galleries.
There is another point I want to make—it is a small one, but I think a good one—on the economic aspect. It is the normal practice for patrons of other art forms, of the theatre, the opera and concerts (this point has already been made, but it is a good point to make again) to pay an entrance fee, although a large part of the cost of staging them is met out of public funds.
A further point which has been touched on, and largely written off by noble Lords opposite, is that art galleries and museums in almost every Western European country, and a good many in America, charge entrance fees. I visit a large number of them fairly often, and much I enjoy them. It seems to me quite crazy that when we go into our galleries in the summer, the National Gallery and the Art Gallery, at least half of the people there are visitors from overseas. We pay their fees when we go into their galleries. Why should they 1411 not pay our fees when they go into our galleries here? It really rubs salt in the wound when we see the prospect of this beautiful Velasquez, to which reference has already been made and which was sold for over £2 million, leaving this country because we have not the money to keep it here. We are not in a position to act as a Mycenæus to all the art lovers in the world. It is an important small point in the economic context: that if we visit other countries and pay their fees, visitors coming here should also pay. They are perfectly willing to do so.
Turning briefly to the artistic argument, I am in great sympathy with those who say that they do not wish to see people deterred from visiting art galleries and museums. One of the most satisfactory things in the post-war years has been to see the young, middle-aged and old crowding into our art galleries in a way that they never used to do before. Certainly we should not do anything which would deter them. I do not believe there is any evidence that we are going to deter them. The 6d. entrance fee before the war, to which the noble Lord, Lord Clark, referred, was a great deal more money than 2s. would be today. I agree that 4s. is getting up a bit, but the spending money is there, and we hope and believe that there will be more when it is possible to reduce the rate of direct taxation.
The figures that my noble friend gave of the effect of the increased charge for the Tower of London surely must make some impression on your Lordships. Far from decreasing the number of visitors, the number has significantly increased. One has only to look around at the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the historic houses all over the country, where they have to pay an entrance fee, and to the various institutions in London and elsewhere where entrance fees are charged. Take the zoo, for instance. The number of people visiting the zoo annually is about two million, and they pay an entrance fee of 8s. It is true that it is a family outing, but I am very much with my noble friend in hoping that the art galleries will be better equipped so that they can offer more of a family outing, too. There is a good deal of evidence to show that people will not be 1412 deterred by being asked to pay an entrance fee.
I hope that the casual visitor that has been referred to, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Clark, the man or woman who likes to drop in occasionally for half-an-hour, can be catered for by a season ticket at a reasonable rate. I agree that if they have to pay 4s. every time it would undoubtedly deter them. I hope they will be able to get a season ticket at a reasonable rate, and that it will also be possible to cater for the student population, to which my noble friend has already referred.
I am bound to say that I shed a metaphorical tear as I heard my noble friend's lucid exposition of why it was impossible to earmark any of the revenue that might come from entrance fees, but, having had some small experience of Ministerial life in the past, I have to accept that his arguments are completely convincing. It is impossible to earmark any of the revenue. Let us give the galleries such latitude as can be given in the sale of publications, post-cards, and so on, so that they may have some encouragement for their enterprise. That appeals to me particularly in regard to the special exhibitions. I hope it will be possible to allow the galleries to run their special exhibitions and keep the revenue from them. These special exhibitions have made a tremendous contribution—the Tate Gallery has been quite outstanding in this way—and the galleries should get some reward for the extra enterprise that they have put in.
I agree that one cannot judge the willingness of people to pay entirely by what they are willing to pay for special exhibitions—I accept Lord Strabolgi's point there—but galleries should be encouraged in these enterprises because these single artist exhibitions have a tremendous impact. One thinks of the Picasso exhibition and the Toulouse Lautrec exhibition. I suppose the Goya exhibition in the Royal Academy is something that no one will ever forget. I agree that that comes outside my noble friend's field, but I hope he will put his expert knowledge of these matters into action so as to give the galleries the maximum incentive, if charges are to be made, and some additional scope for their ingenuity and enterprise in running their 1413 galleries. Perhaps we could get the National Gallery—who knows?—to put on an exhibition of paintings by Constable.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for what he has said, but perhaps he does not know that, because insurance and transport costs are now so great, there really is no profit at all in the special exhibitions. I am considering now how to help the very gallery which he mentioned in order to meet the costs of one of these special exhibitions. I can assure him that it would be a disaster if the money was not forthcoming for such special exhibitions to continue.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I thank my noble friend. I realise that insurance costs are enormously heavy, and I appreciate the difficulties. On the last point I mentioned, the National Gallery does not have to go further than the V. and A. to borrow its Constables. With its own collection, it could put on a great exhibition of Constable paintings without going anywhere else—but it has never done so.
I must not take up further time of the House, for there is a very long list of speakers yet to come. I believe that there are quite good and respectable arguments on the artistic side, as well as the economic side, to justify what my noble friend is proposing. I hope that noble Lords will have taken note that my noble friend has this year, despite the financial stringency, increased the total grant for the Arts Council by £2.6 million—he only claimed £1.6 million—which is a very substantial increase over what it was before. That indicates that my noble friend's heart is in the right place where the Arts are concerned.
This is not a display of meanness by the Government towards the Arts; this is a display of common sense, and it is sheer logic that the Arts cannot be singled out as the one sector which does not bear sacrifice when every other sector of public expenditure is having to bear sacrifices. I hope that noble Lords, despite persuasive arguments from the other side of the House, will not agree to the Motion which the noble Lord, Lord Annan, has moved.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, I rise to address your Lordships' House on the 1414 first occasion on a subject which is peculiarly appropriate to this Assembly. As my noble friend Lady Lee said in liar own quite sparkling maiden speech some little while back, there are many Members of this House who are not merely patrons of the Arts, but have also had considerable experience in the administration of our national institutions, and we have had the pleasure and privilege of hearing some of them this afternoon. I can claim no such distinction, but I have for many years been in close touch with our Welsh national institutions, our National Library and our National Museum of Wales. If I may be permitted I would with filial piety refer to my father who, for many years, was Secretary and then Chairman of the Pilgrims Trust, and who did a great deal both to encourage living artists and to preserve the glories of the past. He was as much responsible as anyone in the last war for establishing the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts which we know has become the Arts Council that we have today.
My Lords, it will already have become plain that the proposition of Her Majesty's Government leaves many of us in much disquiet. I have listened with the greatest attention to the speech of the noble Viscount, the Paymaster General, and was delighted to learn of some of his proposals for the future. I must say, however, that I find his arguments on the particular proposition of charging for museums and galleries singularly unconvincing. I am very sorry that the Government have seen fit to put this forward not as an economic measure, but as a political one. This is one of the matters which has caused considerable disquiet among the trustees and directors of our national institutions. It has been made very clear to them that while their opinions on matters of detail are now being sought, their opinion on the matter of principle is not required and is of no interest at all. They have been told that this is a political decision, and it is not for them to reason why.
I regard this as regrettable because, as my noble friend Lady Lee said, we have tried to keep the Arts on a consensus basis. We have tried not to make this a Party matter. It will be unfortunate if policy relating to the Arts should become a political football, as, for example, the 1415 steel industry has become. It is a great pity that the Government have seen fit to put this forward, I repeat, not merely as an economic measure, misguided as some of us may think that to be, but also as some perverted version of the philosophy of Samuel Smiles. And to what end? For a matter of, at most, £1 million. We agree that this is not an inconsiderable sum, but I find it hard to believe that this should be of overriding importance, when one takes it in the context of the total expenditure on the Arts. To put it, if I may, in perspective, the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, will recognise that this sum is considerably less than one-third of what is required for current expenditure for the British Museum alone, let alone the other national institutions in London, Scotland and Wales. It seems to me that to establish all the cumbersome machinery which will be required, and which is not welcomed by those who are, after all, in the best position to judge—those who are responsible for the national institutions—is an irrelevancy in the total situation.
I was also sorry to find that some of the reasons that have been put forward in support of this policy seemed to be based on either shallow thinking or misconceptions. If I might refer to the letter which was sent by the Prime Minister to the Trustees of the Tate Gallery, in reply to their expression of dismay (that was their word) at the Government's proposals, I was really saddened by it. This letter was published, but I think it was not given in full in most of the Press. Among the reasons given for making charges are some which have already been mentioned in the debate, such as thata charge would make the public more, rather than less, appreciative of the artistic or historic value of the contents of a collection.Surely that is entirely contrary to our own personal experience. I just do not believe that it is true that one's appreciation is enhanced, or diminished, by whether one has paid 10s., 4s., 1s., or nothing, in order to see one of the great masterpieces; that it would make any difference to one's appreciation of Titian or Tintoretto, Corot or Cezanne, or the excitement which one feels at seeing for the first time, maybe, the Egyptian Sculptures or Greek Sculptures, the original scores of the great composers, or the manuscripts of the poets, in the British Museum. It just does not tally with 1416 one's experience, and I find it completely unconvincing. Yet this is put forward as one of the three principal arguments in the Prime Minister's letter to the Trustees of the Tate Gallery.
Another argument produced in this letter is,that charges will make no serious difference to attendance figures".But this again is contrary to all experience. It is not a question of the total increase of attendances, because we have more tourists, for example, coming to this country. The absolute figures indeed are increasing, and may be expected to increase. But when this matter was fully examined, as it has not been on this occasion, by the Royal Commission, and by the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries in the past, they had no doubt at all that attendance charges did make a difference. In fact they were imposed, as the noble Lord, Lord Clark, has said, precisely so that people should be deterred, and they succeeded in that effect. But if we want to come to the present time, your Lordships may be aware that charges have within the last few months been imposed in London, at Marble Hill at Twickenham, and at Ken-wood. The result has been that at Marble Hill the rate of admissions has dropped from 30,000 to 6,000 and at Kenwood from 214,000 to 146,000. I see the noble Viscount. Lord Eccles, is shaking his head. No doubt, if by leave he speaks again, he will deal with this point. I can only say that these are the figures that have been given to me.
Kenwood comes particularly close to my heart. I used to live very near to it and my husband and I used to go there. We went there in his last illness. We used to go for just a short time—a quarter of an hour. We would look at one or two beautiful things, and it brought us great comfort. Had we had to pay on every occasion, I am quite sure that there would have been times when he would have said to me, "No, not to-day." We of course would have been in a position to buy a season ticket. But there would have been others who would not have been in a position to do that. Their tribulation might have been as great, and their means might have been less. These are some of the factors we should consider.
1417 The third argument put forward (again I quote from the Prime Minister's letter) is:The Government believe it to be right in principle that those who use museums and galleries and value their contents should be asked to contribute to their upkeep and improvement as people are expected to pay for other forms of higher educational activity"—I am not quite sure what that means—and subsidised drama and music.But if that is a principle which we should accept, then, as other noble Lords have already said, why stop? Why stop at art galleries? On that principle, public libraries should certainly become paying institutions. And I have it on fairly good authority that that matter was in fact considered by the Government, but the proposition was discarded because it was felt that there would be such an outcry that they could not sustain it politically. But there is no logic in that decision, because if truth is to remain free, why should beauty be taxed? Some persons have mentioned public parks. The same principle applies again there, surely. We have been told that we should emulate the Continent. In that case, why should we not impose charges for bathing beaches as they do in France and Italy, to the great irritation of many of us? Why should we preserve the ancient freedom of the foreshore if money is to be made by charging for access?
No, my Lords. I fear that the reasons given for the policy make one even more sad than if it were based simply on economic necessity. That one could perhaps understand, but the reasons put forward I find depressing in the extreme. I entirely agree with what the noble Viscount said about the difficulty of hypothecation. One of the principles of our public finance is that we do not hypothecate. On the other hand, I was delighted to learn that he had in mind for certain peripheral or extra-curricular activities (if one may call them that) some incentive to greater enterprise, so that the institutions concerned may—I repeat, on peripheral matters; not the major, basic services—have some inducement, as the noble Lord, Lord Annan, suggested in his speech.
If I may give a case in point, the Welsh Folk Museum, as my noble friend 1418 Lord Strabolgi mentioned, has made charges from its inception. Incidentally, it was not founded at all by Government money but by contributions from the Welsh local authorities and private benefactions. Charges have been made there from the outset, but of course the proceeds do not go to the institution. When I asked the very distinguished Director, Dr. Iorwerth Peate, whether he might not undertake certain other activities and charge for them, his reply to me was, "What is the point? We have no return." This was from a most enterprising person, without whose vision and enthusiasm this unique museum would never have come into being—and I am glad on this occasion to be able to pay tribute to someone who is close to his retirement. So I am very glad if this is to be considered, but this seems to me to be quite another matter from the enforced charging for admision, which may be suitable for some institutions—I am not disputing charges at the Tower of London—but is quite inappropriate for others.
If I may mention the main Welsh national institution, the National Museum of Wales, it is in Cardiff in a similar kind of position to that of the National Gallery in London. It is right in the centre; it is somewhere where people can go casually and for brief periods, and I know that the staff of the National Museum of Wales are deeply distressed at the thought that much of their informal educative work may be jeopardised if compulsory charges have to be made.
I have not had direct contact with those in charge of the great institutions in Scotland, but at second-hand I am told that they share these apprehensions. They are also gravely concerned that if it should be suggested to them that they should have certain free days, it would create the gravest problems because of the possible danger to the safety of their collection. No doubt this apprehension is enhanced in Scotland because if there were to be free days as opposed to pay days, then the great proportion of visitors would come on the free days and the numbers would naturally be very large indeed!
This notion of compulsory charging in all circumstances, regardless of the particular situation or the nature or ethos of the institution concerned, seem to me 1419 to be misguided. It seems to me—if I may use the term in your Lordships' House—to be ignoble and I hope very much, in spite of what the noble Viscount has said, that history might repeat itself and that as his political predecessors did on a similar occasion when they were faced with comparable economic difficulties at that time, he might yet think again.
My Lords, the day has no doubt long since passed when one could quote Greek in your Lordships' House, and I will not attempt it.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, my noble friend says "What a pity", but it is better to be understood. I recently re-read Pericles' great oration to the Atheneans and how he praised the beauty of Athens and said:We are lovers of beauty and our city is the school of Hellas".He reminded his hearers of the provision made by the State for relaxation and spiritual refreshment, and said:The daily enjoyment of this drives away our sorrow and despondency.My Lords, we are no longer a great imperial nation as we once were, but may not our capital cities with their great collections be the schools of the world?
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ LORD TREVELYAN
My Lords, it is my very happy duty to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady White, on her maiden speech this afternon. I should like to say how much I admire the manner of her speaking—simple, clear and down to earth but making the points very clearly. I very much hope that she will be often heard in your Lordships' House, and I shall take great pains to listen to her on every possible occasion.
Also, as a new and ignorant colleague of the noble Lord, Lord Clark, at the British Museum, I should like to congratulate him. His speech had all the quality to which we are accustomed in listening to his wonderful series on television, and which I have grown to value very greatly in the meetings at the Museum.
I must declare my interest as Chairman of the Trustees of the British Museum and, like the noble Lord, Lord 1420 Annan, must say that my remarks are purely my personal opinion and that they in no way necessarily represent the views of the trustees. I am going to speak briefly and on the practical points. I do not think we can judge this question purely on general grounds, however reluctant one may be—and it is a natural reluctance which I share—to change an old tradition, the value of which cannot be denied. My general impression from listening to a number of people talking about this matter, and from reading the letters in the newspapers, is that a great many people feel passionately about it, some in favour of charges and others against charges, in about equal proportions. I believe that we can only rationally judge the question after we have considered the practical effects of charging and the estimated financial results. The question is: Is it worth it? We also have to examine in what conditions it would be tolerable.
I would certainly have preferred it it the Government had not made their proposal—I hope I can call it a proposal—before making the detailed examination which I think is required to arrive at a rational decision. Let me then suggest the principles which I think should be followed if charges are to be made. Museums are both attractions for the general public and tourists and educational and research institutions. I consider that the visits for educational purposes should be exempt from charges. In that case, I believe we should exempt school parties with their teachers, students of recognised educational institutions at home and abroad, and people studying in the departments of a museum. I believe we should encourage children's interests by exempting them, too. We should certainly exempt readers in the British Museum Library, particularly since we maintain a free library system. I think this will mean that the readers in the Library will inevitably get free entry into the Museum, for topographical reasons.
We should encourage those who come for a short time—that is a point that has been made a number of times, and I think quite correctly—by giving season tickets at favourable rates; and I believe we should exempt members of societies which exist to promote the interests of a museum or gallery, or museums in 1421 general, and which look to their members to finance special projects or purchases. Also, as I am now 65, I naturally think we should exempt old-age pensioners! We have to see whether we can prevent the front halls from looking like Victoria Underground Station and we have to try to prevent unacceptable delays and difficulties to visitors and students. This will not be easy.
To estimate the financial results is really a matter of guesswork, particularly because, although we can work out how much the administration will cost, I do not think anybody knows what effect the charges will have upon attendance at a museum. I believe we must seriously consider, when we have made this estimate as best we can, whether in view of the inevitable disadvantages involved in making charges, it is worth while to pursue a proposal which may turn out, after detailed examination, to be an inefficient way of collecting revenue and just not worth while.
Then there is the financial question. Should the amounts go back to the museums? That is certainly a reasonable principle, but we must remember that the Government, if I may say so without disrespect, is the goose that lays the golden eggs, and we want the Government to lay larger golden eggs regularly for us, for our maintenance and for capital purposes. So I think the only right thing to do is to treat the financial question as a whole.
What we want in museums is an assurance that the Government intend to make increasing grants to improve the services of the museums and to modernise them. I think this afternoon the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, has gone some way to giving this assurance, which I hope he will confirm on every possible occasion. We want also to know that the Government will adjust the administrative arrangements so that we can speed up improvements, and I believe that the Paymaster General has this in mind. Also we want to be allowed to develop our revenue earning capacity for our own purposes. This point has been made on both sides of the House. We want to be able to show the public, and particularly intending private benefactors, that the revenue which we earn, from whatever source, will directly or indirectly benefit a museum or gallery 1422 and will not merely have the effect of lightening the burden on the Treasury. We want also to see tax concessions on bequests and gifts in a way which will encourage private benefactions.
A subsidiary point concerns the legal question. I have not yet seen an authoritative legal opinion on this, but it appears to me that in the light of Section 3(3) of the British Museum Act legislation will be required before the Trustees are authorised to levy charges. The British Museum Trustees have examined the question of charges and their views will be put to Government in a few days time. Other trustees will do the same, and the Government will also have the benefit of the advice of the Standing Commission. All I ask now is that the Government should examine the views of the various trustees objectively and make their final decision in the light of them.
Finally, I should like to stress the importance of complete confidence and co-operation between the Government and the trustees of the museums, a confidence that both will work together for the improvement of museum services and modernisation. I feel sure that my distinguished predecessor, who has done so much for the Museum, in his new position as Minister responsible for our museums will wish to make this consultation with the various trustees, which he has promised, a real consultation, and that the Government will take most seriously the views of the trustees and those responsible for our museums and galleries before they make a final decision. I feel that for the moment I must reserve my own judgment on the Government's position until the picture has all the details filled in.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ LORD COTTESLOE
My Lords, I should like to join in saying what a pleasure it has been to listen to two notable maiden speeches, the one from the noble Lord, Lord Clark, with his wisdom, learning and eloquence, and the other from the noble Baroness, with her energy and charm. I must, before I say anything else, apologise for the fact that I have a longstanding engagement that may prevent me from being here for the latter end of this debate to hear my noble friend the Paymaster General reply to the particular points brought against 1423 his proposals for admission charges, and Lord Annan's final winding up. If I cannot be here, I hope they will forgive me. I need not say that I shall read every word with extreme interest.
I find myself, so to speak, betwixt and between. I do not, on the one hand, regard free admission as any matter of sacred principle, and I found myself quite unable to join with my former colleagues in a letter of protest that appeared last week over the signatures of a number of former chairmen of the Tate Gallery Trustees. I certainly could not vote for Lord Annan's Motion on the ground of being unequivocally and eternally opposed to admission charges. But, on the other hand, I am deeply opposed to the idea that if admission charges are imposed they should be applied for the purpose of effecting an economy in the Treasury subvention, for that is what it really amounts to. It may be logical that they should be so applied, but it does not seem to me to be inevitable or desirable, or even very sensible. I have myself, for many years, enjoyed being able to wander in and out of the national museums and galleries without having to pay at the turnstile, and I have taken full advantage of the privilege. But I am bound to say that I do not see any good reason why I should not be asked to pay, as I am when I go to see Rievaulx Abbey or Kew Gardens or the Louvre or the Uffizi, or to those highly subsidised enterprises, the National Theatre and Covent Garden. I do not at all believe in the idea that I have seen seriously propounded that art should always be provided free for all.
As to the argument that has been widely publicised, that as the pictures on the walls of the National Gallery have been paid for by the public it is therefore iniquitous that those members of the public who wish to see them hanging there should have to pay a small sum to do so, that seems to me to be absolute nonsense. Quite apart from the fact that many of them were not in fact paid for with public money but were the gifts of generous donors, it is no more unreasonable to make a charge than to ask for payment to see historic buildings or ancient monuments, and no-one takes exception to that. Of course, there must be 1424 remissions for students and research workers, for the young and for the old, and I hope particularly, as has been mentioned by a number of speakers, for those who make a habit of looking in for a few minutes at lunch-time to see one treasure or another. Such arrangements are made elsewhere, and of course they will have to be made here. But, subject to that, I see no good ground for the storm of protest against the introduction or reintroduction of admission charges, on a reasonable scale. It seems to me to have been very much overdone.
Having said that, I must also say that I take strong exception to the Government's proposal to treat the proceeds of these admission charges as Exchequer monies, to set them off against the gross total of the Exchequer grant before arriving at the net figure of Exchequer assistance provided for each institution. I believe that these proceeds should be in the hands of the trustees as additional funds, additional to the Exchequer grant, to be used at their discretion for improving the amenities for the public or adding to their collection. I know that it is said that it is a time-honoured practice for the Treasury to "pinch" admission charges in this way, and that anyway it is as broad as it is long; that even if they did not, they would take them into account when fixing the level of the Exchequer grant; that it would make a difference only if the grant was at a fixed figure, unchanging from year to year. I think my noble friend the Paymaster General said that. I cannot accept that argument as an argument that is valid in practice, even though it may be valid in theory. Purchase grants are not fixed year by year but quinquennially, and I cannot believe that the Treasury are incapable of fixing them, or of fixing the Exchequer grants, as a whole, without regard to chance accretions of revenue.
We all know that, however they may be fixed, they will never be enough to meet the full requirement; that bodies of trustees will have to seek additional monies from generous donors or bodies of friends and from trust funds. In the same way, in my view, the proceeds of admission charges should be available to the trustees. All collections would benefit greatly from having in their trustees' hands some funds that could be 1425 used at their discretion to make them in one way or another more attractive to the public. The proceeds of the publication departments have sometimes been said to serve as a precedent, and it may be that they are now in some cases so treated—treated by the Treasury as appropriations in aid and set off against the gross Exchequer subvention. We know that it is not so in all cases, and certainly when I was a Trustee of the Tate Gallery the publications department was an enterprise for which the Trustees were wholly responsible and the proceeds were available to them to apply for the benefit of the Gallery in any way, in their absolute discretion—and very useful they were. I was delighted to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, say that he hopes the proceeds of the British Museum publications department may be made available in much the same way.
The argument that the proceeds of admission charges must inevitably be taken by the Treasury into credit unless the Exchequer grant runs at a fixed level may be logical (although I am not quite sure about that), but in human affairs what is most logical is not always most sensible, and I think that this is one of those occasions. So my conclusion must be that, although I strongly disagree with Lord Annan's view that admission charges are wrong in principle and mistaken in practice, I dislike almost equally the Government's intention to take the proceeds in order, in effect, to economise on the Exchequer grant.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, even the most harsh critic of your Lordships' House could hardly complain about the quality of this debate. Included in a succession of illuminating and eloquent speeches was the maiden speech of my noble friend Lady White. I venture, without any condescension, to offer my cordial congratulations to her, and I am sure that your Lordships' House will wish to hear her frequently in future debates.
But after the eloquent speeches and the appeals for reconsideration, I find the noble Viscount the Paymaster General, if I may say so with respect, and meaning no offence whatever, obstinate, reluctant to agree to any reconsideration, obdurate, and even perverse. His mind is made up. Indeed, with characteristic candour, he informed your Lordships' House during 1426 his speech that he had been responsible for making the proposition to the Cabinet about admission charges to museums and galleries and the like. In other words, he is the villain of the piece.
In the course of his observations the noble Viscount used arguments which, I am hound to say, appeared to me to be unconvincing, and even meretricious. Let us take an example. He argued that during the last Election the electors of the country had been fully informed about the intentions of the Conservative Party; that the electors understood quite clearly during the Election that because of the financial situation it was necessary, if the Conservative Party were elected and returned as a Government, to reduce public expenditure and to make an end to subsidies. But there was no reference whatever, certainly no precise reference, to charges for admission to museums and galleries. Indeed, I venture to say that if Conservative Party candidates had during the last Election spoken with the candour we have heard this afternoon from the Paymaster General, and if the public had been informed that it was the intention of a future Conservative Government to impose such charges, they would never have been returned. There was then nothing specific about the proposition that we are debating this afternoon.
But if public expenditure is to be reduced and subsidisation is to be terminated, why end with charges for museums and galleries? This debate has been most illuminating; there has been much exposition of expertise and an abundance of eloquence, and it has been entertaining. But why is there no suggestion of a charge for admission to this Assembly. After all, there is a considerable volume of public expenditure devoted to the administration and maintenace of your Lordships' House. Why pick on museums and galleries? What about the catering department in the other place, with which I am familiar, although not so familiar with the catering expenditure of your Lordships' House—that will come in due course. As the noble Lord, Lord Annan, remarked in that most eloquent speech in opening the debate, what about Hyde Park or St. James's Park? Why not charge for admission to the open spaces? If the Government believe that the inflationary situation is to continue, that we are facing 1427 a financial crisis, if indeed it does not exist already—whatever may be their opinion—if public expenditure is to be reduced and an end to be made to subsidies, let it apply all round.
I turn to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford. What did he say?—that everyone has to make sacrifices; why not those who wish to enter museums and galleries? Was that in the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer when in his mini-Budget he proposed a reduction of 6d. in income tax? Is that what is meant by sacrifices by everybody? Or are we to understand that there are to be sacrifices by those who wish to enter galleries and museums, but, on the other hand, no sacrifice is to be made by those who (I am not quite sure whether this is a right assessment of the position) themselves have priceless treasures, or at any rate fine paintings and remarkable pieces of sculpture, and do not require to attend museums and galleries for the purpose of indulging in that quality of life which seems to be slipping away in this country day by day?
I venture to relate an experience of my own. I have an interest in this matter. My noble friend Lord Strabolgi mentioned that I had taken part in a debate in a Standing Committee in another place as far back as 47 years ago, in 1923. I recall the experience solely because I remember that Mr. Stanley Baldwin, who had become Prime Minister after the demise of Bonar Law, intervened and as a result the proposal for admission charges was removed. If, in place of the unconvincing arguments that have been adduced by the Paymaster General and some of his noble friends, I may advance an argument on the side of those who wish to impose charges, it would be this, because of my own experience. I had to leave school at a very early age, which for many years afterwards filled me with melancholy reflections, and still does, even now. As a result, I visited the art galleries available in the City of Glasgow, particularly the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, where I looked through the glass cases and saw skeletons, dinosaurs and ichthyosauria, and all the rest of the zoological specimens.
When I went to the art gallery I saw that remarkable painting by Whistler of 1428 Cunningham Grahame, one of the descendants of the Scottish kings, who himself embarked on a political career. I became interested in Cunningham Grahame and read some of his books. If I had been charged admission to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery at that time, I should never have been in this Assembly. From the point of view of noble Lords opposite, that may be a good argument why admission charges should be made; but I have not heard one other single convincing argument. So far as I can understand, this controversy was initiated because the Government have made up their mind that everybody has to pay, regardless of whether we are to retain the quality, the high standard, of the artistic illumination which is provided for us free of charge in art galleries and museums.
I can recall, when I was very young, the terrible poverty and unemployment that existed in the years before there was unemployment benefit or the dole. Since then, in succeeding years, there has been an abundance of material improvement. Things are not as good as we should like them to be, but people are better fed, better clothed, better housed; and they have more of the material assets of life than we had when I was a boy. What is just as important as material improvement is to have the moral quality, or, if noble Lords care to use another term, the artistic quality: the desire to listen to music, to look at a fine painting or a fine piece of sculpture, to go into the National Art Gallery, if only for five or ten minutes, for the purpose of looking at some exceptional piece of artistic work. Surely that ought to be left to us. Much of the quality of life is slipping away from us, and we have to do everything we can to retain it.
As for the argument that other countries impose charges for admission, all I would say is that it would be wrong of us to follow the lead of other countries. I do not want to embark on a discussion about economic or fiscal matters, but there is too much of a tendency and trend in this direction—and I regard it as objectionable—to wish to associate ourselves more closely, and to be integrated with the life of the people on the Continent. We have our own life to live; we have our own quality of life, of which we can be proud.
1429 As for the appeal for reconsideration, with great respect I say to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and those who have supported him in asking for reconsideration of the Government's decision, that they are wasting their time. The Government have made up their mind, and admission charges will be imposed. Attendances may go up or go down, but that is not the issue at all; the issue is the removal of that freedom about which Mr. Heath talked and elaborated during the Election: freedom for the individual. What does that mean? Not to pay for every amenity that is provided, but to have those amenities, those qualities of life, accessible to everybody.
In the past, and even now, there is too much of the power of the purse. Wealthy people—and I do not complain about it: they are entitled to use their money as they care—send their children to high scholastic institutions and can enjoy life to a greater degree than those who are not so well off. But the power of the purse should not be used in connection with the artistic features that are available in our museums and art galleries. That I would consider objectionable.
One final word. I have availed myself of the Standing Orders of your Lordships' House. Among those Standing Orders I read that, in order to avoid misunderstanding offensive observations are regarded as objectionable and should never be used. I just want to say—and I fortify myself in the observation I am now about to make before I resume my seat with the knowledge that it has been used on more than one previous occasion by no less a dignitary than the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack and whose absence I regret, but who may read what I am now about to say—that I think the Government have been in a panic. The Government are adopting a defeatist attitude; the Government are wrong ! The Government, to use the expression used, as I have said, and frequently, by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, have "gone bonkers". Since that expression was used by the Lord Chancellor and was not regarded as offensive in the other place, I hope that my using of that expression will not lead to my expulsion from this Assembly.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ LORD REIGATE
My Lords, I hope it is not presumptuous of one who is an even newer Member of your Lordships' House than the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, by one week, to say that I think this is, without exception, the best debate I have heard in a mere twenty years of political life. I follow the noble Lord with some diffidence. I can say that if ever—and I should be reluctant to see the day this happened—there were charges for admittance to your Lordships' House, there would be no falling off in attendance if the noble Lord would guarantee to speak on every occasion. There were moments in the noble Lord's speech when I thought that the imposition of museum charges was somehow going to be mixed up with the question of our entrance into the European Economic Community, but I am glad that subject was not raised.
I find myself in the position of a convert who has been reluctantly moved to support the decision to impose charges. When I first read of the proposal I was surprised. To use my exact words in the family circle, I said, "I think David has really done it this time". To bring forward a proposal which arouses the ire of most of the art establishment is a very courageous one, and the only one more courageous would have been to make a proposal which involves the animal welfare lobby. But I now believe that my noble friend is quite right, and I have come to that conclusion after studying the arguments on both sides, particularly the correspondence in the columns of The Times, where the arguments have not always been as reasonable as those advanced in your Lordships' House.
Many of those who complained about charges referred to the fact that they take pleasure, as I do, in visiting galleries very frequently, perhaps going in for a few minutes. But we must remember that the bulk of the national collections are in London or in Edinburgh, and the privilege of frequent visiting is enjoyed mainly by those who live in the centre of London. That privilege is being subsidised by the community as a whole, for many of whom a visit to our national collections is, as it were, the event of a lifetime. So we ought to bear in mind that those who have the more access should make a larger contribution towards 1431 the cost of maintenance of the collections. Frankly, I am shocked by some of those who have written in The Times, who clearly grudge the extra money which it will cost to buy, let us say, the season ticket to which my noble friend referred.
The other argument which has induced me to change my mind is the slight inconsistency which is inherent in the opposition, since charges are already imposed at a surprising number of galleries without, so far as I know, any opposition, or, indeed, any proposal by the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, when she was responsible for these matters, to abolish them. I looked through the admirable Handbook of Museums and Galleries in Great Britain, which is published by the Tourist Office, and through the Guide to London Galleries and Museums, which is published by the Stationery Office, and I found that about 25 per cent. of our museums make a charge. In his intervention, the noble Lord, Lord Slater, who is not here at the moment, put very sympathetically the point of view of the visitor from the North who will have to pay to go to one of our national collections when he comes to London. But what about the Southerner who goes to the noble Lord's own County of Durham and visits that neglected and little-known museum—I do not mean neglected in the sense of not being well kept up, because it is well maintained—the Bowes Museum? The Southerner has to pay when he goes to the North. The Durham County Council, which maintains that museum so beautifully, is not, as I understand it, a citadel of reactionary Toryism, and yet it makes a charge. Is it so very wrong that the man from Durham should pay when he comes to London?
As my noble friend said, there are charges for Hampton Court and for the Tower. Of course, some might say that the Tower is a tourist attraction rather than a museum. Incidentally, it is the site of the national collection of armour and, although armour is something which leaves me as a sightseer absolutely cold, one could say that is a typical national collection for visiting which we have to pay. I discovered something even more surprising in the Handbook—that we make a charge for the Royal Botanical 1432 Gardens at Kew, which, as I have not visited it for some time, I found very odd. If there is one national collection which, if the National Gallery is free, should also be free, it is Kew Gardens, because there are many more botanists and gardeners in this country than there are picture lovers. Furthermore, the charge is the derisory sum of threepence. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, postulated that the horrible day might ensue when we should have to pay for our parks. I hope he is not too shocked by the fact that we have to pay threepence to go to Kew. But there are no cries of protest from outraged botanists, and at no time have I heard any proposal to abolish that charge.
I was equally astonished to read in The Times of yesterday that at a meeting of protest.Lady Longford, a trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery … abhorred the proposed charges as an unprecedented change in our national life.I think there must be a mistake there, because the Victoria and Albert do not have trustees. I take that to mean that she is a member of the advisory council. But I can hardly say that the charge is unprecedented. Many of us know Lady Longford as the author of a very remarkable and attractive life of the Duke of Wellington. When I read it, I was so fired with enthusiasm that I immediately hied me to the Wellington Museum. I was charged one shilling. Yesterday I went again and I was still charged one shilling. Furthermore, as my noble friend said, Apsley House is a branch of the Victoria and Albert, of which Lady Longford is on the advisory Council, and it seems to me a little surprising that Lady Longford has not seen fit to protest about that in her dual capacity.
The same argument applies to other branches of the Victoria and Albert. It is just not true that the Victoria and Albert abolished all charges in 1914, because in 1947 it brought them back for the Wellington Museum, and it has since brought them back for both Ham House and Osterley Park, without any protest at all. Why, therefore, is it wrong to pay at the National Gallery to see the works of Velasquez but, as my noble friend said, all right to pay at Apsley House? The only point on which I would disagree with my noble friend was 1433 in his reference to the pictures by Velasquez at Apsley House. I think that the "Water Carrier of Seville" is a better painting than the one he mentioned.
Then we have had the argument—again, I quote from a letter in The Times—that:Our free national galleries are a constant source of wonder and admiration to foreign visitors.However, it is very conspicuous that none of them follows suit. It is quite easy to admire the generosity of others but at the same time to think that it is folly. One noble Lord referred to the fact that there are no charges for museums in the United States of America. I think that is true at the present time, but I noted in the last annual report of the Metropolitan Museum that, having tried the voluntary contribution—and they suggested a dollar as a contribution—they are now, despite Federal, State and City support, thinking of imposing a charge. So we are in good company.
I believe the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said that, because the Italians charge, one never sees Italians in their galleries. That is not true. If you go to the tourist centres of Italy out of season, you will find that the Italians are there then, but they rather wisely keep away when the places are thronged with tourists. I was in Venice this summer, and I think that there they have discovered the most ingenious ways of persuading the tourist to contribute to the support of their museums and treasures. If you go into San Marco there are three separate charges for three separate items. You pay to see the Pala D'Oro, you pay to see the frescoes and you pay to see the Treasury. If you go into some of the churches where, to put it mildly, the pictures are not very well lit, you find that you now have to pay to put the light on. But if you can afford to go to Venice, even from London, then I think you ought to expect to make that kind of contribution to the maintenance of their treasures. Therefore I myself am not objecting. I see no reason why the same principle should not apply to those who come here. I do not find the proposal at all shocking.
1434 I hope that my noble friend will resist the blandishments of the arguments for earmarking the taxes for particular museums or galleries. I sympathise with what my noble friend Lord Cottesloe said, but at the same time I think it is wrong that all the proceeds of what I might call the popular museums should go to them and that there should not be rather more equality as between the different museums. In particular, I should like to see some of the extra revenue which accrues, and which I hope will continue to accrue under my noble friend's enlightened leadership, go to the Provinces. I speak as a Londoner who represented a constituency near London, but I am still rather shocked at the disparity in the standards between the London museums and the provincial museums; and I sympathise with what the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, said in this matter. We ought to make a far larger contribution to the Provinces and not just become London-orientated and London-centred in this matter. I end, my Lords, as I began. No one relishes a tax or a levy or an impost that they are likely to pay themselves. I think charges will be levied, and I believe it is extremely unlikely that they will ever be abolished.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ LORD PLATT
My Lords, I share with the noble Lord, Lord Reigate, who has just sat down, a certain feeling of impertinence in addressing your Lordships' House after the most eloquent speeches which we have heard from such great experts as the noble Lords, Lord Annan and Lord Clark. Your Lordships may be glad to know that during the course of the debate so far—and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Reigate; it is one of the best debates I have ever heard—I have crossed out almost everything I was going to say. Nevertheless. I have written down a few things I was not going to say, so I still feel that there is perhaps little excuse for me to get up and make a few remarks. I should like to congratulate, of course, the noble Lord, Lord Clark, on his maiden speech; and also the noble Baroness, Lady White. I should like to agree with her in the strongest possible terms that it is the greatest pity that this has been made into 1435 a political debate, because I do not think it should be on that level at all.
I should like to remind noble Lords of the wording which Lord Annan has chosen:That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to reconsider their announced intention to introduce charges for admission to the national museums and galleries.The noble Lord has not asked the Government immediately to renounce any such intention at all: he has asked them to reconsider it. I therefore take it that noble Lords like Lord Cottesloe will be found in the Lobby supporting the Motion, since he obviously wishes the Government's intentions to be reconsidered.
As several noble Lords have already said, it is very difficult to present any kind of logical argument as to why this particular kind of education should be free when other kinds of education are not free; and this is not a subject which really lends itself very well to logic. Therefore, I do not share with the noble Lord, Lord Reigate, any particular surprise that there are inconsistencies in the arguments on both sides. The economic arguments clearly break down if we carry them to extremes. Parks and libraries have already been mentioned. Nobody is suggesting that we charge for them. The whole field of education, social service, arts and esthetics needs a special treatment which is not necessarily amenable to the cruder economic arguments, although we all know that lines have to be drawn somewhere, however difficult it may be in certain situations to do so.
I was not impressed in the slightest degree, although I am afraid I am no politician, with the argument that consultations with the trustees of these museums and galleries could not have taken place. I thought the noble Lord, Lord Annan, answered that in his opening speech. When the question of the preservation of King's College Chapel was raised during the time that he was Provost at Kings, he did not say, "We will now charge for admission". He put it to the people concerned that if they could not find ways to increase the revenue and raise money to preserve this wonderful Chapel then there might have to be a charge for admission. I wish the Government had shown the same wisdom 1436 and had put it to the trustees and government of the galleries and museums that the situation is serious—desperate, if you like—that more money must be obtained, and would they let the Minister know in three months' time what suggestions they had because otherwise the imposition of charges would become essential. That would seem to me to have been a wiser course.
Some point has been made of the comparison, or if you like the contrast, between the pictorial arts and museums, and music. As I have had many years of experience in the promotion of concerts, I should like to say just a word or two about that. I think it would be fine if a lot of concerts were free, but they are in a different category. Musicians have to be found, they have to appear in person, they have to be paid, and rehearsals have to be paid for. Musicians have often to travel from great distances; and music, unlike pictorial art, is a temporal art and you cannot drop in for a few minutes at any time of the day to hear a Beethoven symphony, as everyone knows. I want to say also about music that of course nowadays, with radio and modern gramophones, there is much more chance of the ordinary person hearing great music, even at second-hand, than there was when I was a youngster.
Talking about dropping in for a few minutes, this is an argument which I find very important, and it is a fact that several months ago, before this question was raised at all, I was in the vicinity of Trafalgar Square with two ladies and two children. We had about half an hour or 20 minutes to spare, and we went to see the new Rubens. We said that we would see nothing else; we would just have a look at this one picture and come out. That, I suppose, would have cost me £1—no; there would have been a reduced charge for the children. At any rate, it might have altered our decision—which brings me to the question of season tickets. They do not cover this sort of thing. I am one of those people who loves to drop into the National Gallery or the Portrait Gallery just occasionally, when I find time to go there, but I am not such a regular attender that I imagine a season ticket would be an economic proposition for me.
I should again like to endorse the argument of the middle classes, because I 1437 think that in this House we on the Cross-Benches are in the fortunate position of not having to vote one way or another but of being able to do as our consciences dictate to us. I think that we should ask ourselves, "Do we not, perhaps more than any other section of this House, represent the middle classes—and particularly the professional classes? "That is not to say that they are not excellently represented by the two major Parties and by the Liberal Party as well; but I think that perhaps we have a special duty to consider them. I think that so far they are not getting the best deal from the economic policy of the new Government.
On the question of school meals, I have already pointed out that you must have an income of £2,000 a year or more just to break even on the reduction of income tax. This is another issue on which this particular class of people—especially those who are bringing up families—will be the most affected. It seems to have been made a political issue. I have no doubt that in spite of the fact that three-quarters of the speeches so far have been in favour of the Motion, I shall be in the minority if the noble Lord forces it to a Division—as I rather hope he will. But this will not be the first time that I have been in a minority, and I hope that it will not be the last.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, after the extremely eloquent speeches we have heard this evening, starting with that quite outstanding speech by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and including the remarkable maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Clark, it is difficult for anyone to say anything more. But I promise that I shall not detain the House for too long. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and, just recently, the noble Lord, Lord Reigate, have made it very clear that however much their interest in the Arts—and no one for a moment would try to compete with the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, in his affection and work for the Arts—however excellent their attitude towards the Arts, this issue is to them a perfectly clear case of straightforward political philosophy, and nothing else. This is ideology run mad, nothing else at all. It has nothing to do with the question as to whether we are going to get better museums or better art galleries; on 1438 the contrary, the money is not to be allocated in that way—the money is to go straight to the Treasury. There is not the slightest question that any museum or art gallery will benefit from the fees that are raised.
The whole thing is done as a matter of straight political philosophy. The idea is a very simple one: that it is important that you make people pay for everything they get. It is important that they should be charged for museums and art galleries. At the moment the libraries are left out; but as Lord Annan indicated at the start, "bread will be included—the libraries will be included as well without any doubt. It is said that this applies only to certain national galleries; but the noble Lord, Lord Reigate, made it quite clear that he does not like the idea of only 25 per cent. of the museums and galleries charging; that that is a gross anomaly and therefore 100 per cent. should charge; that we must extend the charges.
Does anyone suppose that a local authority (if it is a Tory-dominated one), finding itself with a Government grant which is inadequate to allow it to reduce the rates, will not turn towards museums, art galleries and libraries and make charges for their use? At the present time they are allowed to raise up to a sixpenny rate; but very few authorities do raise a sixpenny rate. What they will do is to cut down on this. I know a little about this because my wife was for some years chairman, first of the Libraries Committee and then of the Laing Art Gallery Committee, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She succeeded in getting a magnificent new library built—with every single Conservative member of the Council voting against it on a named vote in order to show their attitude. When this library was opened in the spring of this year by Lord Boyle—who, as one would expect, made a magnificent speech—the Leader of the Conservative majority said to me that it was time that they started charging for use of the library.
My Lords, there is no use in imagining that this principle will not be extended. This is the beginning. The noble Lord, Lord Reigate, and the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, both indicated this; because the noble Viscount referred specifically to rates as well as to taxes, to the relief of rates. In other words, by 1439 this action, by this appallingly retrograde action, he is encouraging the local authorities to charge for all these amenities. Why do I feel strongly about it? I can afford to pay; it does not worry me very much if I am asked to pay for these things. But when I was a boy living in Wales my main source of education, apart from going to school, was the use of the Carnegie Library. Your Lordships may recollect that the Carnegie Libraries were set up by the benefaction of Andrew Carnegie who gave money in order that free libraries should be set up. These free libraries gave mental sustenance to thousands, even millions, of poor children throughout the country. As my noble friend Lord Shinwell said earlier, his education depended upon this and my education depended upon it.
My Lords, one can say that any action that is taken by this Government to restrict—and it will be a restriction—access to the museums, to the art galleries and the libraries is striking at the very root of popular education in the Arts and of popular education in every way. It is a scandal. I cannot imagine how the noble Viscount can come before this House to defend such an outrageous action.
§ 6.18 p.m.
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I rise with great diffidence, particularly following such an eloquent speech as that made by the noble Lord who has just sat down. I should like to tend my support to the Government proposals on three grounds. First, financial. It is clearly impossible for the Treasury to allocate as a special part of its funds and of its revenue money coming from the nationally owned galleries. If this money went into a special fund, every other financial body would say that revenue from them must be allocated to their particular field. This is clearly impossible.
So far as the charges for admission to the galleries are concerned, I think I might say, at the risk of being regarded as blasphemous, "God helps him who helps himself". The Treasury have to be a very hard-headed body of men. If I were in the position of my noble friend Lord Eccles and wanted to get money for the Arts from the Treasury—as I am sure he does—then I should feel happier 1440 if I were able to go to the Treasury and say, "I am doing all I can to help by means of an admission charge for our nationally owned galleries. Will you help me further?" By doing this he is in a stronger position than by saying that entrance to our nationally owned galleries is to be free of charge. I repeat, God helps those who help themselves; and unless the museum and gallery world can be seen to be helping itself, I think there is little hope of more help from the Treasury. That is the main basis of my intervention. It must be right, if we are going to get more money for the Arts, as the noble Earl wants; and in that we all support him.
Secondly—and I am even more diffident in making this second point—I am puzzled by noble Lords who argue that aesthetic pleasure should be free; that it is morally wrong to charge people to go into a gallery for a few moments of acute pleasure in looking at a picture. If this were taken to its logical conclusion, surely anyone who was fortunate to be able to go and see Dame Margot Fonteyn dance or Dame Joan Sutherland sing should also be admitted free. These are aesthetic experiences of great emotion, but we have to pay for them.
Finally, and much more mundanely, I should like to talk about attendances. Here I have an uneasy feeling that I may be out of order, but it has been said this afternoon that charging for galleries will have a disastrous effect on attendances. I do not think that this is the case. I have the good fortune to own a house which is open to the public. It is, I like to think, open virtually entirely on aesthetic grounds. It is not, like others, a menagerie. I do not say that it can compare to the great national galleries, but it has in it fine works of art. Unfortunately, as with everything else, admission charges have gone up. This year we put up our charges, yet we had our second record year in the time the house has been open since the war. I do not think that a modest charge will have any effect whatever on attendances. It has been argued that people do not think they are getting their money's worth, if they do not have to pay. I do not myself subscribe to that view, but I feel sure that having to pay a modest sum will not be a deterrent. I apologise to your Lordships for intervening in the debate, 1441 but I warmly support my noble friend, Lord Eccles. I think he is right to make a charge for galleries.
§ 6.22 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to begin, in view of the way the debate is going, by making three apologies. I apologise for not being here when the noble Baroness, Lady White, made her maiden speech. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Clark, for not regarding his as a maiden speech, because I am one of those who, casually switching on the wireless for a different purpose, heard one of the noble Lord's talks and became a convert. Finally, I should like to make a belated apology to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, with his permission, as he is not here, for the maiden speech he made a long time ago: a non-controversial speech which he emphasised with great effect with blows on the head of the Peer in front of him. As this is not a more controversial speech, I felt justified in ducking to one side, particularly as the Liberal Benches have been reduced to two, like the liberal Arts.
I mentioned the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, because he raised the question of the ichthyosauria and cavemen, which is almost the only point I want to make in this debate. I think the best thing I can do is to give my own answer to a question put by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford: is art a special case? My answer would be that I agree with him: it is not a special case. But I do not think that this is the question. The question is: is visual a[...] a special case? Secondly, are museums a special case? My answers to both reluctantly would be, yes. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, I cannot regard the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, as the villain of the piece. I think that visual art is in a different position, for the reason given by the noble Lord, Lord Platt. It is the only one that is a practical matter. We should all be immensely interested to see a first production even of a bad play by Shakespeare, like Henry VIII, at the Globe Theatre with the additional excitement at the end, but even with our technological improvements we cannot do that. We can see a contemporary portrait of Henry VIII, if we are lucky enough to go to the College of Surgeons, or if we are sensible enough 1442 to go to a public gallery. The noble Lord made the point clearly that we cannot compare permanent and visual art with live art.
The second thing I want to say is that there is a case to be made for charges, and one that I support is that it is the Conservative case. That is why I want to go back to cave-men days. We know little about pre-history. There is the conception that art is a luxury which we can afford, or ought to afford, if we already have proper hygiene and public conveniences. I do not know what the hygiene was in cave-men days, but what I do know is that even then there were public art galleries, which seems to me to suggest that art is a much more essential part of the historic human being, separated from the animal, than most people suppose. That is, I feel, worth taking into account.
But in crises, and in uncomfortable situations, the casual visitor who goes into a gallery to get out of the rain, as the animals went into the Ark, may in the long run be getting out of it something he was not expecting. It is only in defence of the casual visitor, not of the expert, that I say that I am not one of those who would follow the idea of buying a season ticket, even in the rainiest or coldest season. I might well go into a gallery when I had not intended to do so, simply to get out of the cold or the rain, or to avoid an awkward encounter with somebody. I entirely appreciate and agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, that that was the spirit in which a great many people went to the churches in the Middle Ages—as a sanctuary. That applies to art galleries.
I will not say much about museums, except that I am not an expert on museums. I belong to a generation to which a museum and a mausoleum were thought to be the same thing. We never thought of associating museums with music or amusement. The first museum was set up in 300 B.C. It was a temple of memory, a temple for the Muses. I do believe that only two of the Muses go into this—the Muse of history and the Muse of the space traveller, the other seven being different forms.
Art is a vital necessity in our present age for people—not for people who have studied history or science, but for casual 1443 people—to be able to pick up almost by accident. They will get from television all the fashionable ideas of the age or the fashionable ideas of art—certainly a picture by Rembrandt may sell for £2 million, perhaps £4 million or perhaps even £24 million; and if it was not by Rembrandt of course it would be thrown away. That is the economic fashion. What museums find harder, I think, is to provide a spectacle of the past, and the prospects of the future: and I believe that our prospects for the future will be much less than they are now if these charges are put on. So I would join with almost every other speaker in the debate in begging the Government to think again.
The last thing I have to say is that, rather than having season tickets, I think the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, of voluntary subscriptions from people who, perhaps for bad reasons, have gone into one of these places, is an admirable one. I have often myself felt for a small coin in my pocket when I have gone into a church or some place like that for no very good reason. I do not suggest, as perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, would, that people should actually be paid, but one might perhaps be paid for coming out of museums instead of going into them. However, I think it is time that I stopped this speech before I begin to get boring.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, first I should like to say a word about our two maiden speakers. My noble friend Lady White and I were colleagues on the Manchester Evening News, and I witnessed her maiden efforts in journalism. All I can say is that they were as assured and as fluent as her maiden speech was to-day. As for the noble Lord, Lord Clark, we got the colour television set just in time for the beginning of the "Civilisation" series, and it gave us great pleasure, which has been extended by his speech to-day.
I hope that as a result of to-day's debate the Government will realise that they have made a mistake and that all they have to do is to forget their unhappy proposition. If they quietly retreat, as has been suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, nobody will reproach them. There are no pressure groups demanding 1444 that charges should be made in our museums and galleries. There is nobody, even among the most ideological members of the Monday Club, who wants to de-nationalise the National Gallery. I can assure the noble Viscount that there will be no mass lobbies at Westminster from an outraged bourgeoisie if he drops his idea; there will be no student protests and no dockers' marches. Even The Times, I feel, might quietly swallow the prejudices with which it offended so many of its readers on Monday.
We do not have a philistine Prime Minister, and we do not have a philistine Government, but they are in danger of making themselves look like Philistines. No matter how generous or enlightened their policies for the Arts may be, they will be remembered as the Government which brought the box office into our national museums. And the "Free-the-museums movement will be a small, perhaps, but a permanent thorn in their side. Every time that a citizen pays his toll he will remember who imposed it, and the opposition to it will not be inactive.
Other Governments have made this kind of mistake, but have seen the light in time. I am not thinking only of museums. There was a desperately pressed Government in 1940 which had the idea of putting a purchase tax on books. Sir Kingsley Wood, the Chancellor, could not understand what the objectors were worried about. He said: "There are plenty of books in the country. Why are they worried?". But deeply and publicly committed as he was, he was persuaded to think again, and he dropped the idea. The arguments he advanced were exactly the arguments that the noble Viscount advanced this afternoon. He was putting a purchase tax on clothes, as well as putting an identical amount of purchase tax on books. He said: "How can we tax the clothes of poor people and not tax books at the same time?". Well, there was a great outcry, and though he was much more publicly committed than the noble Viscount is, in the end he learned his lesson and withdrew.
It is easy to see how this new Government, in the excitement of their unexpected victory, rushed into their current error. They have a general theory that 1445 the generosity of the provident State cannot be unlimited, and so the principle of exacting a contribution from the citizen at the moment when he uses a service must be extended. This is not in itself a bad principle. Even noble Lords on this side of the House must accept the need for some extensions of it. Not every noble Lord on this side, I feel, would oppose a proposition to, say, charge a toll on new motor roads or to have a pricing system for motorists who want to drive into over-congested areas. But no Government, having accepted the need to extend the principle, can extend it into every sphere automatically. Yet that is what this Government are doing, and have done in this particular case.
One can, of course, see the superficial attractions of the argument. People who love music and the higher theatrical Arts have to pay for their pleasures. Why should those whose pleasure is in the visual Arts and the antiquities not make a contribution, too? After all, this is the practice in such cultured, enlightened and wealthy countries as France and Germany. But we are not concerned about equality of treatment between concert-goers and gallery-goers. They are not distinct groups competing for Government subsidy. Almost all concertgoers—at least, all those that I know—have some interest in the visual Arts, too. They have eyes as well as ears, and are interested in the galleries; and they have minds which are stimulated by museums. But not all gallery-goers are concertgoers, and if you go into the galleries at week-ends you will find people who, even in these days of dress equality, are conspicuously poorer than those you will see in the cheaper seats at the Old Vic and the Festival Hall.
It is argued that we do not have free concerts and free theatres, so why have free galleries? There is one overriding reason why we do not have free concerts and theatres: it would be impossible There would be no way of selecting the audience to whom a privilege of that kind should be given. These performances are by their nature scarce commodities which have to be rationed by the purse. All we can do is to subsidise them so that the people with shorter purses should not be deprived. But any argument whether they should be free or whether a charge should be imposed is 1446 irrelevant, because it would be impossible to have a system of free entrance. But, equally, there is one overriding reason why we do have free galleries, museums and public libraries. It is possible; there is no need to ration them. There are no queues waiting to get into the British Museum and the Tate, and these services can be provided without imposing an intolerable burden on either State or local funds.
The question that we have to ask ourselves, however, is why for several generations we have thought they should be free? It is surely because we as a nation have not simply regarded them as a bit of fun, as dilettantism, a mere circus provided by the State in order to indulge its citizens. They have, as several noble Lords have pointed out, a deeper purpose. Why? Here I am in a difficulty. We have no modern vocabulary to discuss what we used to call the soul. To-day we can talk about homosexuality and prostitution with less embarrassment than we can talk about the spiritual side of Man. We are afraid of seeming pious and platitudinous.
The reasons for the free public provision of galleries and museums have been so implicit in our thinking for generations and so seldom made explicit, that we are in danger of forgetting them—as this Government have forgotten them. And so when we repress our shame and embarrassment, when we try to talk about the soul, we have to fall back on the concepts of another age, on the vocabulary of Arnold, Ruskin and William Morris. People in the nineteenth century were afraid of democracy. They were afraid of the mob, deprived, ignorant, ugly and dangerous. And they saw, too, that democracy could only be tolerable and sustainable if they civilised the urban masses. There was a vast attempt to do this over a wide front: popular education, evangelical christianity, free libraries, temperance movements, intellectual missionaries going out from universities to the settlements in darker London and Manchester. And the masses themselves throwing up their own great co-operative, trade union and Labour movements which had their cultural pursuits, too, simple though they were.
And so we come to our free museums and galleries, and the idea that Art, particularly in an era of religious decline, 1447 has its part to play in refining our society, in revealing to us and developing in us the non-material side of Man, in giving us insights into the nature of Man and showing us aspects of our world we cannot see without the help of the artist. And the museum, too, liberates us from our provincialism, our obsession with the place and time we live in. In fact—I think the phrase is Whiteheads—though we gain a necessary private experience it is a public utility, too. It is part of the civilising process.
The point was most economically made by Simon, one of the pioneers of the Socialist movement, early in the nineteenth century, that:Without the fine arts, there would be a lacuna in the life of the individual, as well as in the life of society. It is the fine arts that condition men towards social acts, that lead them to see their private interest in the general interest: they are the sources of devotion, of lively and tender affections.Again where I think this Government have gone wrong is in thinking that the galleries are there simply to cater for the cultured minority who can afford to pay, or are willing to cut out something else to do so to make some sacrifice in order to gratify their interests in the Arts.
This is to neglect the mission of the galleries. Their task is not to cater for the existing demand. It is to create a wider demand, to attract those who stay without the gates or seldom venture in. Quite simply, the box office will keep them out. Everybody knows it. And everybody should regret it. The net result of the Government's decision is that people who might use the galleries will not use them. The shillings that are charged will disappear into the vast coffers of the Treasury. That will have an infinitesimal impact on the economy. It is as if a multi-millionaire began to collect free gift stamps. I do not care if other countries charge. In this respect we are ahead of them; we are the enlightened ones and let us stay in the lead.
My Lords, if the sensibilities of this side of the House are more acute than on the other, it is not because this is a Party political matter, because we care more about the Arts than the other side do, or because we have greater moral feelings. It is simply that we have deeper roots in 1448 those movements which were dedicated to the spiritual awakening of the masses. We have come a long way, even since my boyhood. But we have still some distance to go. And now the Government are proposing to take a short step backwards, or at least are proposing to halt. I hope that they think again.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, I am glad to be following my friend the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick; I am only sorry to inform him that I shall not quite be following his particular line. It is generally agreed that most people are conservative (with a small "c"), and dislike change of any kind. If they happen to live in a country where motorists can travel free on motorways then, in their view, motorists must always travel free on motorways, even if a motorway costs £1 million a mile to build. In the same way if, in their country, entrance to museums and galleries has always been free, then it always must be free, however much the circumstances of 1970 may differ from those of 1870.
May I digress for a moment to say that I have for long been a visitor to the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and, to a lesser extent, the Tate? On an even more personal note, I should like to add that I played a fairly large hand in turning the Municipal Museum and Art Gallery in Belfast into a national institution, and that a considerable extension there is now nearing completion. With all this in mind, I do not welcome the idea of having to pay when I visit museums and galleries in the future, any more than I personally should want to pay tolls when I go on a motorway. But it may well be that in both cases the day has come when we can no longer have this kind of thing "for free".
In 1870 there were virtually no tourists. In 1970 there are hoards of them. I feel sure that they will visit our museums and galleries in much the same numbers, even if they have to pay a few shillings in order to gain their access. I visited the Louvre just the other day and had to pay 3 francs—about 5s. I thought this a little excessive, and wondered whether 3s. might not be a more appropriate fee here. On the other hand, it must be remembered—and reference has already been made to 1449 this—that people pay more than this to visit properties either under the care of the National Trust or in private ownership. While, therefore, I have not asked for an entry charge, I accept it in all the circumstances which exist to-day.
I should, however, like to make two suggestions. First, would it be possible to introduce charges for a trial period of, say, three years? This was done when British Standard Time was introduced—and, thank heavens! it has now been abolished. Second (and I am now treading on well-worn ground, as is inevitable when one speaks late in a debate; but I will still make the point), I think the Paymaster General has indicated this already), I suggest that, in addition to any proposed exemptions, season tickets costing perhaps £2 a year should be issued to those who are regular visitors.
As I am not against change or innovation, and as it is obvious that revenue must be raised to expand and maintain our museums and galleries, I shall support the Minister and the Government, in the belief that their attitude will be humane and, perhaps even more important, flexible. For, my Lords, it is doctrinaire rigidity of administration and unwillingness to change with the times that have brought our country to its present plight.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
My Lords, I feel that I may be bringing in perhaps rather a discordant note this afternoon, because all of your Lordships who have spoken hitherto have been concerned with the Arts. I am a Trustee of the Natural History Museum. I represent on the Commission on Museums and Galleries the three scientific museums, and it is with the outlook of a Trustee of that nature that I speak this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Clark, in his admirable maiden speech (which I think makes us all hope that we shall discuss the Arts rather more frequently than we have done in the past, so that we may hear him again), said that, by and large, opposition to charging for admission to museums was an instinctive and subjective emotion, and it was a subject emotion of that kind which first hit me when I heard that charges were to be made.
I then recollected that most of us—and I am surprised that some noble Lords 1450 who are connected with museums have not remembered this point—who have been connected with museums have been discussing charges ever since the passing of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, which gave local authorities the power to make charges which they had not had before. In my part of the world we have been watching what has been happening in the City of Norwich, where in the following year they started making charges for admission to their museums which had never previously been made; and we have seen that year by year, in spite of the charges, the attendances have gone up.
Having got that far, I thought that quite clearly one ought to try to approach the problem objectively and see what evidence one could find that the charges were likely to be a disincentive to visit a museum. I thought, too, that it was worth seeing how far one could find changes of this kind being made. An interesting example comes from America. I may say that I am not only a Trustee at the Natural History Museum but also on the Council of the London Zoo, which, although of course not a museum, is very comparable to the Natural History Museum. In America a very large number of zoos are run by municipalities, and hitherto they have made no charges for admission. Latterly they, like some of our municipalities, have been starting to make charges, and they too are finding, so I am told, that the making of charges is not a disincentive and that people still tend to visit—a point made by the noble Lord in front of me, when he referred to the Tower of London, and by the noble Duke in referring to his menagerie of pictures in his house. There is, then, some considerable prima facie evidence that charges are not a disincentive. If that is so, my Lords, I can see no harm in making charges.
There is further evidence when one looks at the areas from where our clients at the various museums come. Here again I can speak only for the museum with which I am connected, and I do not know how far the art museums have made an analysis of the same kind. We have been able to make a very careful analysis of the districts from which the children come to the museum in parties. The extra-ordinary fact is that, although everybody has been talking about drifting in and out 1451 of museums for recreation and to look at pictures, as if the vast majority of people who visit them are Londoners, we find that no less than just under 60 per cent. of the children who come to the Natural History Museum come from outside Greater London—not only from the Home Counties but from all over the country. Just over 60 per cent. come by buses, which is pretty expensive, and it is fairly clear that the additional charge of 1s. or so for a child would make little or no difference to the numbers who come.
By and large, the proportion of children going to the scientific museums is more or less the same throughout—somewhere about 8 per cent. When I look at the London Zoo I find that almost exactly the same proportion of children go there; and, curiously enough, it is almost exactly the same proportion of children, coming from a wide area, right outside London, who go there as go to the museums. It is true that this position mainly concerns school parties, but it is a fairly good indication of the fact that the people who come to our museums in London come from a very much wider area than we may suppose. I myself do not believe, therefore, that there is any real proof that charges are a disincentive—in spite of what the noble Lord opposite said just now, that it was abundantly clear to everybody. I do not think it is abundantly clear to everybody, because nobody, save the noble Duke and the noble Lord in front of me, has produced any facts at all in this connection. It does not seem to me that there is any real proof that the imposition of charges is going to be a major disincentive and lead to a large fall, if any fall, in the number of people visiting these institutions.
I should like to say just one thing more on a subject on which the noble Viscount the Paymaster General touched, and that is the museum service in general—not only our national museums where the charges are to be imposed. He was hoping that this proposal would give him more money to enable him to improve the museum service throughout the whole country. The first thing we have to realise—and this has nothing to do with charges, I agree—is that the whole future of the provincial museum service in this country depends on local government reform. We 1452 had Maud; we have Maud no longer—and we have seen a number of other solutions for local government reform. In every one I have looked at, the museums and galleries, and the Arts side of local government work, are thrown as a sort of sop to one of the smaller authorities to make up for what they are going to lose, without any consideration of the benefit of the service itself. If we are to have a good museum service throughout the country, it is absolutely essential that it should be the largest possible authorities that are responsible for it and that it should not be thrown to the smaller ones.
I think, too, that the Government ought to help with a point which was made by one noble Lord (I cannot recollect who), and that is with the expenditure on insurance and security for travelling exhibits. The noble Lord, Lord Clark, referred to the immense amount of material which is available and which could go round, but provincial museums say that they cannot afford it because of the cost of insurance and of security. In the national museums the Government carry that insurance. I can see no reason why the Government should not continue to carry the insurance of these pictures when they are going out to provincial museums. It would save an immense amount of money and would encourage the provincial museums to take these collections. Indeed, I think the Government ought to be prepared to make some capital grant to the provincial museums to provide galleries which are utterly and completely secure, when their only cost would be to hire a Securicor team, or something of that nature.
There is one last point about the museums which I think is important and which again has nothing to do with admission charges. I believe that our national museums, by and large, have been far too inward-looking for many generations, concerned more with the curatorial and educational side of their activities than with looking outside. A typical example is the library of the British Museum in Bloomsbury. I suppose it is the best library in the world, but for generations it has contented itself with being and maintaining itself as the best library in the world, in marked contrast to the library of Congress which has done an immense amount of bibliographical work and has carried out similar library functions that we have 1453 neglected to do. If we are to have a proper museum service, such as the noble Lord referred to just now, I believe that our other museums have to go far outside the purely curatorial and exhibitional educational side of their work. Some of them have tried, though others have not, to run classes in conservation and the like; but usually the money has not been available from the Government. The Natural History Museum ought to have been setting up classes for taxidermists, and getting in touch with all the Commonwealth museums from which it draws much of the material on which its scientists work.
My Lords, those are the lines on which I should like to see the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, developing museums. I do not feel that we should do any harm to them by imposing this charge, but I hope that the stimulation of that £1 million gift to the Treasury will, like bread cast on the waters, come back sevenfold (if that is the right quotation), and that he will do some of the things that all of us would like to see done.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ LORD ILFORD
My Lords, this has been a long debate and one of considerable interest to us all. I think we all feel a sense of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, for having made this debate possible. But we must not exaggerate or overstate what the Government are supposed to do. As I understand the position, all that is proposed is that the Government should do what cities with big museums all over the Continent do as a regular thing, and what indeed our own museums did until a short time ago. I understand this new proposal to be that there will be two or three days which are "pay" days, for which payment is made for entrance to the museum, but that the remaining days will remain "free" days, exactly as now, so that persons who find it difficult to raise the necessary fee for a "payment" day could very easily go on a day when no payment is expected, and they could then go as freely as they do now. I think that is the way in which these proposals will be carried out. The Paymaster General is to have interviews with local authorities and other bodies representing the museums and galleries, and no doubt some arrangement of that sort will be proposed. This is in fact the way in 1454 which payment has been effected in all museums that I know.
If I may tarn now to another point in the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, it seems to me that he underrated the importance of what has been done on the Continent. It is all very well to say, "We are British people; this is a British interest and we ought not to put too much emphasis on what happens elsewhere". That is not a reasonable way of approaching this problem. If in fact payments to certain museums on certain days is a regular practice in other places abroad that, surely, should affect our position here. I have found surprising, on the limited survey that I have made, the extent to which that has been carried out on the Continent. In France there are 17 major museums, all making a charge for admission; in West Germany there are 18 major galleries and museums, and 9 of them make a charge; in Holland there are 10 major museums, of which 7 make a charge and in Switzerland there are 27 museums of which 17 make a charge. So all that the Government are proposing to do is what is done generally among cities on the Continent which have large and important galleries and museums. Belgium is the only country I can find where the galleries are free. There are 11 major galleries in Belgium and all are free.
May I now turn to another point. It is not the case that admission to national museums has always been free in this country. Indeed, I think the noble Lord, Lord Clark, mentioned the charge which was formerly made at the Tate Gallery. The National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the Wallace Collection all made a charge of 6d. on two special days during the week. The London Museum charged Is. According to my information those charges were given up at the beginning of the war. They were not reimposed after the war because at that time gallery space was limited and it was felt that it would not be fair to charge the public for admission until the galleries had been restored to their former size. It is the case that all these galleries in fact made a charge, and I do not think there was any great complaint about it from any section of the population. All that the Government are seeking to do is to redress the balance which was destroyed 1455 on the re-assessment of the charges at the end of the war.
May I now turn to a point which was raised by my noble friend Lord Cranbrook, whether in fact the making of a charge is a disincentive and discourages persons who would otherwise like to visit the museums. The experience of the management of galleries has not confirmed that point of view. Indeed, most of the galleries who increased their charges have increased the number of visitors as well. The Tower is the outstanding example. It raised charges from 2s. to 4s. at Easter, 1970, and the result was a very substantial increase in visitors during the whole period of nine months from the beginning of January to September.
The noble Lord mentioned the Norwich Castle Museum. The Norwich Castle Museum first established its gallery in 1965, when the local authorities were given power to organise galleries and museums. They made a charge then of 2s., which was later increased to 2s. 6d. In 1965 they started with 210,000 visitors; in 1968 the number had risen to 272,000; in 1969 there was a small fall back to 250,000, but still a figure well above the opening figure when the gallery was established. Other similar figures are available, in respect of the Cutty Sark at Greenwich, the London Zoo and Madame Tussauds; in all those places charges have been increased and the number of visitors has increased. That has been the experience of museum directors in the past, and I see no reason why anything should happen to check the same experience now. I have only those few points to put to your Lordships. I intend to vote against the Motion, and I hope that your Lordships will do the same.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, you see before you one who experiences a certain disassociation of personality, if that is the right expression, because although I sit here upon these Benches behind my noble friend, the Paymaster General, in spirit I am sitting over there next to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and I may as well say that straightaway at the beginning.
Like many others, I have paid small sums, in Munich and Rome and else 1456 where, to go into foreign museums and galleries, and I have done so without the slightest objection of any kind but with a certain feeling, not of chauvinistic smugness but, I confess, of satisfaction of a national kind—I might also call it pride; it is not smugness; it is not superiority. The satisfaction comes from this: that I believe that the dedication which has grown up over the last century, or nearly century and a half by now, to the proposition that the great national collections shall be free to all who care to go in and look at them, is in itself a mark, I might even say a light, of civilisation. It is the mark of a civilised country. When we find it not shining to the same extent in other countries, there is no reason to be critical or smug, but, equally, there is absolutely no reason whatever to feel that we ought to follow the example of those countries. I am entirely in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, who perhaps put it the most strongly, but also with others who have objected to the point of view that says that if other countries do this we should follow their example.
The arguments put forward in favour of the imposition of charges are a little surprising. The economic and political ones are obvious enough. I understand them, but I do not care for them, because I think we are dealing with a matter of the spirit, and that should be somewhat outside politics. Skipping over those altogether, I would point out that nobody has yet put forward—my noble friend the Minister has not—any argument in favour of putting admission charges on galleries and museums. I speak subject to correction, but I think I am right in saying that all the arguments have been directed to showing that it will not do any harm, either to the people who go into the galleries or to the galleries themselves, and great play has been made with comparisons and analogies with other institutions. It has even been carried to the length of comparing the great national art collections with the Zoo.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
My Lords, with the greatest respect, I must say I compared it with the Natural History Museum and not the National Gallery.
§ THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, I think the comparison was made, even if my noble friend does not 1457 accept it in those terms. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, certainly mentioned the Zoo. It was received with some amusement. Even when we go not quite as far as that, we talk about castles and palaces. Hampton Court—perhaps that was not mentioned, but the Tower of London certainly has been mentioned over and over again. The Tower of London is a great romantic, ancient castle, and people do not go there to look at the art collection inside. When they go to an art collection or museum they do not go to look at the building. They do not go to look at the building known as the Tate Gallery, but to experience the art treasures within. I maintain that there is no comparison which can be made between those two kinds of institution. If a comparison is made, it cannot be pushed as far as it has been.
What we have been told is that most of these institutions of one kind or another have had considerable experience of putting up their charges and that it has had no effect on attendance. It is perfectly true. If you put up the price of cigarettes or whisky it will not have any effect on the consumption of cigarettes or whisky. But we are not talking about increasing the prices of museums; we are talking about putting a price on new, for the first time. Several noble Lords have said, notably I think my noble friend, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and certainly the Paymaster General, that there is no evidence that an imposition of a charge has put down attendances. The one example of admission charges being put on a museum is the one my noble friend, Lord Cranbrook, mentioned, the Castle Museum at Norwich. I entirely concede that this is a good point to the Government's case. But is there no other? This is the only museum that has been mentioned that is in fact comparable in character to the great national museums, wherever they may be. This is one that has increased its attendances in spite of putting up charges. Are there no others? Why do we have to go to Norwich?
Has nobody thought about Kenwood? Kenwood is surely comparable in character to the others. What has happened there? This has been for many years a famous collection, and one of our best, but not one of our biggest. It has been free. In 1969, they instituted admission charges on Saturdays and Mondays: 3s. 1458 for adults and 1s. for children. The year before they did that, their annual attendance—these are official figures—was 214,280, and, the following year, after putting on charges, it was 146,198, a drop of 68,082 or 31.77 per cent. if my arithmetic is right. So they were 31 per cent. down at Kenwood for putting on charges on two days a week, and nearly all the drop, of course, happened on the two pay days, although attendance on the free days has gone down also to some extent. There is also Marble Hill, a lesser institution certainly, another Greater London Council administered property, linked with Kenwood, which also put on admission charges in April. 1969. They did it for every single day: 2s. for adults, 1s. for children—not a very big charge perhaps. I will not bother your Lordships with the figures, but perhaps you might like to guess what the drop in admissions was in the year after that. The answer is 79.5 per cent. That is what happens when you put on admission charges that have not been imposed before.
It seems to have been forgotten by many of your Lordships that the noble Lord, Lord Clark, in that most admirable maiden speech the he made, told us how at the National Gallery they put on a charge of not more than 6d. in order to keep people out, and they did keep people out. That is what is going to happen. It is not a bit of good noble Lords saying that there is no evidence to show that it is going to happen. I have just given the evidence. There it is.
A question that has been asked is, why should the Arts have a special position? Why should they be treated separately from anything else? Why should the people who patronise the Arts be exempted from payment? We are not talking about the Arts. This is not a tax that has been put on museums and galleries; it is not being put on the pictures; it is not being put on the exhibits within. It is being put on the people who go in; and what they go in for is an experience. It is nothing at all to do with the Arts as such, and it is totally false to make any comparison between what goes on in the museums and what goes on at, say, Sadler's Wells, the ballet, the theatre or any other kind of entertainment for which one has to pay. This is totally different, unless you think it is possible 1459 to make an exact, straightforward analogy between static, creative art and live, interpretative art, which is, I submit, absurd.
I have more to say, but I am not going to say it—the debate has gone on long, and your Lordships do not wish to hear more from me. But I do want to say that, whatever may happen at the end of this debate—and I hope that the Government will think about this proposal again, because that is all they are being asked to do—I have a certain personal satisfaction in having, I hope, added my tiny candle to this one particular light of civilisation that burns in this country and of which we ought to be proud. I hope it will continue to burn and that it will not be snuffed out by my own Party.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
My Lords, in this most interesting debate we have heard many noble Lords—and the last speaker was no exception—oppose the new charges which the Government propose to make. What has astonished me is the fact that most people feel that it is a tradition in this country that our museums are free; we feel that there are hundreds of museums in this country which have always been opened free to the public. But that is just not the case. The tradition is indeed the other way round: most of our museums charge, and it has been the exceptions which have proved the rule—for example, the Tower of London, which has been charging for over 200 years. I cannot see the logic in the fact that the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum are free in London but that they charge for their satellites at Clapham or Apsley House.
This afternoon the main opposition, both inside and outside this House, has come from trustees, directors and curators who have never had any experience in the charging for museums. Few, indeed, have had any experience of employing well-tried commercial methods in making their institutions more viable.
I excuse this intrusion into this debate at this late hour by the fact that perhaps from my own experience—my museum is, I believe, the third largest attended museum in the country after the Tower of London and Windsor Castle—and as one who really knows about charging I 1460 can make a few helpful observations. I have never found that the imposition of charges has any deterrent effect at all. Indeed, my experience in visiting overseas museums has always been that by putting on a charge the attendance has often gone up, as indeed it has at the Tower of London. I am sorry to disagree with the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, but all I can say about Kenwood is that it must be extremely badly promoted if the attendance has fallen.
We have also heard other noble Lords say what astonishing results emerge when money is taken at places like the National Gallery. We do not know what the charges are, but there seems to be some disagreement. I am astonished not at how much, but at how little is taken; how very much lacking some museum directors are in using facilities for selling even more stuff.
Unfortunately, museum directors are inevitably rather introspective, and they rarely take into consideration what people really want, or take steps to attract the public, except for special shows, when they are amazed how much money they can take for a special occasion. They really do not know who comes, or why, because they have never bothered to find out. Those of us who have to make it our business to find out do know. We know where they come from, why they come and who comes. And what we know is that museum habits are changing. They are no longer the dusty mausoleums which one was taken round on a wet day as a child. People come to be entertained as well as educated. It is the combination of these two factors which is most effective to-day. Nowhere is this better seen than in America, where attendances at museums are increasing all the time; where the average price of entrance is about two dollars (which is nearly £1) and where there are three museums opening every week, all of which are charged for.
Noble Lords have asked this afternoon about the costs of collecting these charges. Having no experience, they are speculating what these may be. I can tell your Lordships. They are about 1 per cent., which I think is reasonable. If they are more than that, then there is something wrong with the productivity of those museums. I should be happy to advise noble Lords if they need it. As to 1461 deterring children, there is no evidence of this at all. Often children come unaccompanied with as much as £1 in their pockets to spend on ice cream and souvenirs.
It may be that we have for many years been proud that our museums are free, but I am not so proud to-day when I see our museums falling more and more behind in regard to display and facilities. I would rather be proud of what is in the museums and how they display these things, than that they should be free. This is particularly relevant to overseas visitors, 5 million of whom have come to this country this year. I am sure that they would be the first to agree that a charge is absolutely right and proper.
It has been suggested that people will no longer give things to museums. A very distinguished man in the art world, Hugh Leggatt, has threatened to withdraw his pictures. Obviously, the public are going to be the loser, although it may be that the "Victory" will have it at Portsmouth. But with the greatest respect to people who do loan things to museums, there are certain advantages which should not be forgotten. There is the fact that the things are well maintained at no cost, they are insured, and people have a great amount of pleasure in seeing their treasures enjoyed by other people.
With regard to the Valasqucz, I am entirely in agreement that this picture really should be allowed to be exported now. But I should like the Paymaster General to look at the question of trying to see that in future Englishmen can bid on equal terms in the sale rooms of London with those from overseas. With the enormous tax incentives given to Americans to endow museums, the State is virtually subsidising their museums at very little cost to themselves. This would be much better than preventing objects from being exported.
I should like to support the plea made by Lord Norwich in regard to provincial museums, which are indeed in dire straits. Many are running down and are no longer the proud places that they should be. I hope that some of the Arts Council grants will go to them, and perhaps more exhibits which are surplus and are in stores can also be used. Most fundamentally—and we are talking about matters of principle now—I believe the 1462 charges will bring about an important change of attitude among museum directors. It will strengthen the Paymaster General's arm with the Treasury, and I am confident that arrangements for students, children, old-age pensioners, season ticket holders and so on, will be no problem whatsoever for those who have experience in this matter, and that they can easily be worked out. I believe that museums will emerge stronger both in body and soul.
§ 7.30 p.m.
LORD ST. JUST
My Lords, debates on the Arts in your Lordships' House are bound to raise strong feelings. If I may reminisce for one moment, I remember that some years ago we had a debate, introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Long-ford, on the state of the theatre. The next day those of us who took part in the debate were accused in the Press of being hysterical and bordering on insanity. It is perfectly understandable that emotions should run high when dealing with problems concerning the Arts. In some ways I am slightly surprised about the strength and intensity of feeling on the introduction of admission charges, since up to 1939 the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Wallace Collection, and the National Gallery of Scotland charged on two or three days a week. As we have already heard in this debate, museums and galleries dropped all charges after the war because war damage had been done, so this problem slipped quietly away. We have heard a lot about comparisons not being made with countries abroad, but it is worth stating that in Austria, France, Italy and Japan, charges are made in all galleries. Denmark, West Germany and Holland, charge a percentage on certain galleries.
The feeling has been expressed in today's debate that the revenue from admission charges should be kept by the institutions, and regarded as extra money over and above the Exchequer grant. In principle, I agree with this view. The Government no doubt feel that charges are regarded as Exchequer monies, but let us for a rnoment look back to the days of the Road Fund. About five years ago I did quite a lot of research on the question of motorways and the Road Fund. I contacted one of the officials in the Ministry and asked him who was the 1463 first Chancellor of the Exchequer to break into the Road Fund. There was a slight pause, and then a rather hushed voice came back and said, "Churchill". From the point of view of the public, if it could somehow be kept separate it would make a great deal of difference.
I personally feel—and here I disagree with my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery—that there is a certain parallel one can take concerning museums and galleries and, say, the Royal Opera House. I am not a trustee of any museum or art gallery, but I know a good deal about the Opera House. After the war it had to be taken back by the Government. It was given a small subsidy, and then relied entirely on the ballet to bring in the money. Then opera became fashionable and popular. It also became very good and a great deal of money was given to the Royal Opera House by the Arts Council as a grant. I think none of us who went to the Opera House grumbled as, from time to time, the price of tickets went up. This was accepted, and I think there is a certain parallel that can be drawn here.
I have just one point that I should like to make to my noble friend on the Front Bench (though I have not given him notice about this) and possibly he will pass it on to the Minister. Although one day a week is asking too much, I wonder whether it would be possible that on one day a month there should be no charges at all at museums and galleries? I do not believe that there would necessarily be a gigantic rush to get in, but people who have not much money, and who are really keen and think deeply about pictures and all forms of art treasures such as we have in these galleries, would find such a concession of great benefit.
§ 7.35 p.m.
THE EARL OF DUDLEY
My Lords, some noble Lords opposite have been full of sound and fury this afternoon. As this is the Christmas season, perhaps they will not take offence if I draw a simile from pantomine, and describe them appropriately as mental giants who have been crying "Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum". Certainly some of them have been smelling blood, and are after blood. In my opinion noble Lords opposite have been both up the beanpole and in Cloud Cuckoo-land. I say this because seldom 1464 have I heard noble Lords so moved by emotion at the expense of logic and common sense. The words "free" and "gratuitous" have been bandied about in almost every speech in support of the Motion, including the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, when introducing the debate.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, I really could not help using the word "gratuitous"; because it was used in the codicil to the will which Turner made.
THE EARL OF DUDLEY
My Lords, I fully accept that. On the other hand, I feel that perhaps in making that will he was unable to have regard to the circumstances at the present time. We must surely know that nothing is free, and that all human endeavour seeks some reward.
To get this question into perspective, it is as well to remind noble Lords that the costs borne by museums and galleries are now, and have been mainly in the past, met from grants from the Exchequer, and are nearly all for salaries. Establishments of museums have risen, since 1950, by anything up to nearly 200 per cent., in the case of the British Museum, and 212 per cent. in the case of the London Museum. Is it unreasonable that, faced with this mounting burden of public expenditure, and with the inevitable future increases to follow, the public should be called upon to make a partial, though a relatively small, contribution as visitors to the museums and galleries rather than as taxpayers? One way or another the bill will have to be met.
There is no suggestion—none has been made in your Lordships' House this afternoon, and none will emanate from me—that museums and galleries are over-staffed or inefficiently staffed. The reverse is certainly true. Therefore the salaries must be paid. Is it not just and sensible that some part—and the proposal is for about 9 per cent.—of the cost should be met by the museum and gallery-visiting public, rather than that the whole burden should fall on the taxpayers, some of whom may not have the slightest interest in their national cultural heritage, even though they will continue to contribute towards 91 per cent. of the cost of preserving that heritage?
1465 While I was deeply impressed by the brilliant maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Clark, which was for me the highlight of the afternoon—as are all his appearances, whether personal or on television—I must say that I was not impressed by the force of his argument about alternative contributions. Purchase grants represent an investment by the nation, whereas grants-in-aid are for the staffs and other costs. The sacrifice of the one for the other would be to compound our financial difficulties, to which the noble Viscount referred, and which he hopes to alleviate. Also, the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, knows perfectly well that in this matter we are dealing with a reallocation of resources, and that the present proposals are not inflationary.
Unfortunately, one of the anomalies of the decimal system is that a 2s. 6d. charge would be impracticable, and the Government may well find themselves in the position of having to mint a new coin in order to cope with the museum and gallery charges, particularly if it is found, as it may well be (and here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine) that 2s. is too low and 4s. too high. The scale of charges and the concessions to be given will therefore present a problem to those responsible for fixing them. So I think it right that the directors and trustees of museums and galleries should at this stage be given the widest possible discretion to recommend both charges and concessions according to their special circumstances, and their views should receive the most serious consideration.
I must say that, when one considers the enclave formed by the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Geological Museum, and views the proximity of the Victoria and Albert Museum to those other institutions, one is tempted to ask oneself whether the problem could be appropriately considered in a wider context than the imposition of entry payments. But the difficulties of rationalisation and standardisation are very great. Those four institutions account for over 5 million out of a total of 14 million admissions to national collections. But the Natural History Museum conies under the British Museum and is responsible to the Trustees of the British Museum; the Geological Museum is sponsored by the Natural Environment 1466 Research Council; and the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum are responsible to the noble Viscount the Paymaster General. So that, while they are within walking distance of each other, they may be poles apart, administratively, and on matters of policy and direction. For that reason, I believe that there will be disparities between them as to charges and concessions, as well as in regard to the cost and distribution of season tickets and so on. So I hope that there will not be too great an attempt to impose standardisation, which in the circumstances could be utterly inappropriate.
I feel that the argument about whether or not other countries impose charges is irrelevant, but it may amuse noble Lords to know that the Soviet Union also imposes charges in most of its museums. The charge is 20 kopeks, with half-price for children. In my opinion, children up to school-leaving age should be given free admission to museums in this country, and I also recommend that old-age pensioners should have free admission. That may mean that we shall have to support a rather higher level of charges than the 20 kopeks which are considered appropriate in the Soviet Union, but it will be a sacrifice well worth making for the sake of giving free entry to our young children and students.
This may be an appropriate moment to refer briefly to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, who I regret is not here. He spoke with great eloquence, great humanity and great compassion. He mentioned the power of the purse: but never has the purse been more powerfully, if ineffectively, used than when the Party which the noble Lord supports was last in office. Never have the purse strings been drawn so tight, and never has so much money passed out of the hole at the bottom of the purse. If the present Government are trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, I am sure that the country understands that and will support them.
Finally, I should like to refer to the effect of charges on admissions, a point mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, As the noble Lord, Lord Clark, said, this is a matter of pure speculation, but it is worth mentioning that the question of alternatives to visiting museums or galleries must arise mostly 1467 in London, because it is in London that 80 per cent. of the admissions are found. I do not necessarily believe that the other facilities where families may spend their money are sufficiently attractive, and the prospect of the alternatives being overcrowded, as a result of people choosing to go to them rather than to the museums, will in the long run deter people. Since most people go to museums to enjoy the satisfaction of a cultural experience or in search of knowledge, I cannot feel that, apart perhaps from a short temporary drop, admissions will suffer in the long run in any shape or form.
Because of that, and because so little is known about the likely effect of the proposals, I think it absolutely right and proper that the funds arising from the charges should be kept away from the institutes and should go straight to the Exchequer. It would be quite wrong to distort the purposes of the institutes, which could well happen if the revenue were applied to them directly and did not come up to expectations, Under the Government's proposals the institutes will remain tied to the grants system, which I believe is right and proper and is what the institutes themselves prefer.
I am convinced that the proposals will work and that the administrative problems will be successfully overcome. They will produce added revenue and useful foreign exchange, which will come from the pockets of foreign visitors, for the benefit of the nation, as well as enabling the institutes to qualify for improved budgets. While the institutes are second to none, the trustees and directors would certainly not claim that there were not many urgent and desirable improvements to be made. As contributors to the Exchequer, under the wise guidance of the noble Viscount the Paymaster General, and with his encouragement and support, the institutes will have a much more powerful voice. For this reason, I support my noble friend in opposing the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and invite noble Lords on both sides of the House to share my views.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ LORD DIAMOND
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just spoken will not expect me to agree with everything he 1468 said. But I certainly agree that we all enjoyed enormously the very moving maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Clark, who referred to the heart of this matter by talking about the life-giving experiences which are the subject of this debate. What I am so bold as to do—and I am delighted to see the noble Viscount the Paymaster General back in his place—is to hope that, for three very good reasons, he will be good enough to accept this Motion without a Division.
First of all, it asks very little indeed. It merely asks that a Minister, who has told us that he had this idea himself—admittedly, out of his long experience—and who, without consulting those most interested, without consulting his colleagues, put it forward without anyone having an opportunity to discuss it publicly until it was announced, should reconsider his decision. He is asked to do that having regard to the new information which has come to light, and having regard to the new evidence of which he has been made aware, of which he could not have been aware in view of the unfortunate and erroneous advice that was given to him about non-consultation, to which I shall shortly refer.
I therefore hope that the Minister will be good enough, out of his enormous stature and prestige on these matters, to recognise that he above all could afford to be seen to be reconsidering this matter. To a lesser man, less known to be sympathetic and helpful to the Arts, this might be asking too much of a political Minister: to him, I am sure it is not. I am sure that it would do nothing but add to his already great prestige if he were prepared to say that, in view of everything he has heard, he would think again—just think again—as to this proposal.
My Lords, I always rejoice to find such a great measure of agreement as there is on all sides of your Lordships' House about a number of the aspects of the matter we are considering. There is unanimity that we all wish to help the Arts so far as we can. Nobody has taken the opposite point of view. There is wide agreement that the Arts are in a special position, and should receive a measure of subsidy. The only question being considered is whether certain forms should receive an absolute subsidy or a reduced subsidy.
1469 There is broad agreement that the effect of the charges would be to deny to many, particularly those who just manage to get by on their private family budgets, an experience which none of us would wish to deny to them—what the noble Lord, Lord Clark, referred to as life-giving experiences. On all these matters there is wide agreement; and I am sure that there is wide agreement that we should not be seeking voluntarily to lower the quality of life, which is what is proposed, unless there were impelling reasons why we were forced to do it, or were forced to consider doing it.
My Lords, there is one further reason why I hope I can say that there is a broad measure of agreement; that is, that certainly in my case it gives me enormous pleasure—I hope a proper sense of pride and pleasure—to take visiting Parliamentarians from different Continental countries to the V. and A. to see the wonderful Chinese porcelain or the English silver, and to hear them say, "Free? Do we not have to pay?" I say, "No. Our tradition, of which we are very proud, is that anybody who wishes to enjoy this experience can do so freely, uninhibited. It is a matter of his capacity to enjoy and enrich his standard of living, not a matter of the length of his pocket". I am proud, and I am sure that many of those who have already spoken are equally as proud, that this tradition has grown up among us.
So, my Lords, I am bound to turn my attention to the question: what is the impelling factor which has made all us art and museum lovers—none greater than the noble Viscount himself, the Paymaster General—wish to impose charges, and what has made us do it in this odd manner? I shall come to that a little later. We have heard the answer. The answer has been given to us on the authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The reason is that this is one of a series of charges resulting in a reduction in public expenditure, so that, to use the Chancellor's own words:…we can now look forward to the prospect of tax reductions".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 27/10/70, col. 50.]He then went on in his speech in October to detail the reduction in taxation. So what is under consideration is the lowering of the quality of life for many people for the sake of a sixpenny reduction in 1470 the standard rate of income tax for some people.
In case the impact is not sufficiently clear, I have done my arithmetic. Alas!, I have had to do it myself, and therefore it will probably be quite wrong. But according to the Inland Revenue tables it works out that a married man who earns £5,000 a year and is a keen supporter of the Conservative Party and of the present Government will be subject to the following request by the Paymaster General. The Paymaster General will say to him, "I am sorry; we have decided to reconsider this charge, and instead of saving, on your 6d. reduction in income tax, £88 7s. 6d. a year, you will now save £88 2s. 3d. a year. As a result of our reconsideration, you will be 5s. a year worse off". What I challenge the Paymaster General to do is to produce a single one of his supporters who will say, "I am earning £5,000 a year, and I would rather charges were made to see the great treasures in our museums, including charges to those who find it difficult to meet them, because otherwise I shall be 5s. a year worse off". That is the purpose of these proposals, my Lords. You have to get to the level of £15,000 a year earned income, man and wife, before you are prejudiced to the extent of £1 in the whole of one year by a reconsideration and a rejection of these proposals.
I am bound to say that in my opinion the noble Viscount has not given himself time to think about this. I am sorry that he was misinformed and that, as a result, he did not take the sensible step of prior consultation. But now, I think, he can justifiably say, having heard what he could have heard before but what, owing to inaccurate advice, he did not hear, that he will take account of it. My Lords, it is a matter of fairly regular practice, to which I can bear first-hand witness, that the Treasury and the Inland Revenue consult, in confidence, prior to a proposal being put either to the Cabinet, or certainly to Parliament, those who are liable to be directly affected by changes in charges or taxation. That has happened time and time again during my own experience.
I apologise for delaying the House on this, but as the noble Viscount has been totally misinformed by his advisers I 1471 must make the position adequately clear. It has happened time and time again in my own six-year experience. The normal form is that the Chairman of the Inland Revenue writes to say, "Dear Chief Secretary, The proposals we have in mind are complicated; they will involve this, that and the other. I should like your permission to discuss them in confidence with the interests concerned". And I always gave it.
There were several such occasions. Unfortunately, as the proposals were discussed in confidence, the House will not expect me to breach that confidence. There was one occasion, however, which is a matter of public knowledge, and that relates to the Bar Council. All the proposals affecting the taxation of barristers in their last year of practice, which were very onerous proposals and meant that a particular tax benefit no longer existed, were considered fully with the Bar Council. The Council made representations to the Revenue, who then made representations to Ministers; who considered them fully before the proposals were introduced more than a year later in Parliament.
I am saying to the noble Viscount that it is unfortunate that, somehow, he was given the information that it would be unprecedented or unfortunate or wrong for him on constitutional grounds to find out the information he could have found out had he taken consultations first. Therefore he is more than entitled to take the view that he ought now to accept this Motion in order to give himself time to consider the matter and to listen to the evidence which he would then have had. He would have found out a number of interesting things that we found this evening. He would have found out that even if it was essential, in order to give the £5,000 a year taxpayer £88 7s. 3d. instead of £88 2s. 3d. benefit, in the course of a full year, he could have saved a million pounds without charges.
The noble Lord, Lord Clark, explained that in his view the Government had got the priorities wrong. If the Minister had consulted those with knowledge and experience of the matter they would have said, "We would rather do something quite different from making charges". Not all would have said that; 1472 but many would. How many more could there have been who would have put forward suggestions to avoid this method if they had been given the opportunity of doing so. I am saying that this proposal was not well conceived. It was not a proud moment for our country when it was decided by the Government that we should seek to lower the quality of life for many people in order to make the final five shillings a year benefit for some fairly well-to-do taxpayer.
Finally, on a rather technical point, the noble Viscount has not told us what we all suspect—and which is the reason why this proposal has come up time and time again and has been turned down time and time again, as every Minister knows—that it is something not worth the bother of doing. Even if you are satisfied as to the principle, as you often are when considering different forms of taxation, you reject it when you come to examine the method and the cost of collection. What wasteful expenditure may be incurred in collecting every four shillings or whatever the amount may be! The noble Viscount made an interesting and valuable speech but he did not say one word about the cost of collecting this charge, when he knows—he must have been so briefed; and we all know, who have been in Government—that cost is one of the main reasons why this old chestnut has been thrown out time and time again.
So I hope that what I am saying to the noble Lord is not felt to be antagonistic. Nobody could be more sympathetic to his translation than I, who was similarly translated when I came from the world of opera and many battles on Sadler's Wells straight to the Treasury, where everybody thought, mistakenly, that opera from then on would have endless resources put at its disposal. I understand how the noble Viscount felt about his translation to his present position. I do not want to go so far as to say that we should be ashamed of charging; but I repeat that it is something that we should not want to do if we were not compelled to do it—and the measure of compulsion here is totally inadequate. The reasons for doing it are bad. The noble Viscount, as much as anybody else, wishes to raise the quality of life. All we ask him to do out of his great store of goodwill is to reconsider this proposal.
§ 8.4 p.m.
THE EARL OF GOWRIE
My Lords, I have never thought of myself as an economist, so it is cheering to find from these Benches that I am going to come to somewhat similar conclusions to those of the noble Lord, Lord Diamond. But what I get out of those conclusions is something quite different. I am sorry to see that the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, is not in his place. I enjoyed his speech. He asked my noble friends why they did not raise charges for admission to watch this House. One could reply that this must be the only museum in the world where the exhibits are paid a pittance for being contained by it. At this late hour I am not going to speak too long, not only because of the hour, but because I am going to urge your Lordships to vote against a Motion suggested by my boss. While in a free society one can do this, one should not harangue him too much over the reasons for voting against his Motion.
I agree with noble Lords opposite that we are debating a question of principle. I, as a Conservative, would not deny that. The question is: are the Government justified in principle in looking towards admissions charges to national museums and galleries as a way of reducing, or rather keeping in check, expenditure on these museums? I say "in principle" because my noble friend the Paymaster General has explained that he cannot go into the details—and this answers some of the points that the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, raised—about what the museums themselves propose, and about what the working of this policy might be, because he is still in consultation with them. It is for this reason I feel that the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, is a little premature; but it has been so eloquently introduced and so vigorously debated that we can all still be grateful to him. If when we go to Division any of your Lordships are still wavering, I suggest, again with the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, that you consider the principle first and foremost. I suggest that we shelve for the moment the arguments over what sort of turnstiles we are going to have to make collection economic, how we are going to reorganise the lavatories and the question of entrances and exits marked "One" and "Two" at the Victoria and Albert. That will be come. The national museums and galleries in 1474 this country are run by able and determined men and where the Government have the will to raise charges they will find a way.
If noble Lords accept with me that what we may shortly vote upon is a question of principle, the arguments put forward by both sides fall into place. Noble Lords opposite—and I am thinking of the Liberal and Cross-Benches as well—are suspicious of the present Government. They are put in an embarrassing position because they are not suspicious of my noble friend and many of them have paid personal tributes to him. They are suspicious of his right honourable friends in the other place; and they are suspicious of the idea that the way to contain inflation, which we all agree is the national priority, is to reduce personal taxation—a reduction which I concede affects social groups "A" and "B" most favourably—and that to reduce personal direct taxation you must either cut public expenditure or increase indirect taxation or, as in the present instance, have a mixture of both.
I am no economist and it is not for me to say whether my right honourable friends and my noble friends are going to devour or be devoured by the inflationary monster by fighting it with these weapons. But Conservative though I am, I cannot help regretting that bad luck and various failures of political nerve did not enable the previous Administration to offer an alternative which could without distortion of the term have been called Socialist. To make charges for entrances to places of spiritual, aesthetic and intellectual treasures is contrary to truly Socialist principles, and this in my view is an honourable idea. But for noble Lords opposite to flail away at the Government for reducing a subsidy by a small amount, while simultaneously trying to cushion the effects of this reduction by giving the museums themselves a role in the method of its application, is to flail away at windmills; is quixotic Opposition and quixotic Socialism.
Lord Shinwell's poetry—there is no other word for it—notwithstanding, noble Lords know quite well that there are hundreds of museums and places of cultural significance and splendour which do make charges. Was the old Ministry of Works, the Ministry now under Mr. Walker's wing, wicked or barbarian or—to use Lord Annan's word—"divisive" 1475 in seeing that the Tower of London kept to its charges? Is my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire an enemy of enlightenment, because the public have to pay an entrance fee to Chatsworth? Should the noble Lord, Lord Clark, refuse payment for his books, because they deal with the cultural heritage of mankind?
It is hard to get across to noble Lords opposite that money itself is neutral; it is a medium of exchange. How many people in this country, bent on offering their own experience and perceptions to those of great makers and artificers of the past, would not be proud enough, and would not have self-respect enough, to offer 4s., or even 5s., for that privilege and that experience? If that depressing vision is to be ours, then "Bacchus and Ariadne" becomes mere loot, a mere cultural and national status symbol. To Christie's with it, and let us build a mile or two of motorways in its stead! I must also say, since a little asperity seems to be in order in this debate, that I was less than ecstatic at the letter opposing the Government's plans, which two British artists of world fame sent to The Times this morning from a Swiss address. A case on fiscal and cultural quis custodietism.
To conclude, no one can deny that we have a Government with a reasonable purpose, which has made an uncomprising declaration of intent, whatever the fate of that intent. I am no Tory diehard. I would say that I was to the Left of both Government and Opposition in matters of foreign policy, and I am prepared to acknowledge that time may modify out of all recognition the present Government's economic strategy. But, just as I regret that we have not since 1951 had in this country a Government which could in any serious sense be called Socialist—we have not tried such a Government—so I believe that the overall strategy of the present Administration should be given its run. With the greatest respect to my boss, Lord Annan; to two writers whom I admire, the noble Lord, Lord Clark, and the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich; and with respect to the artistic concerns of my noble friend the Paymaster General, I believe that this Motion is a red, or perhaps a pink, herring. What we may be asked to divide 1476 on has nothing to do with the Arts. It is the right of the present Administration early in its term to tackle its declared policies. I urge your Lordships to give it that right.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BOYD OF MERTON
My Lords, I shall detain your Lordships for only one minute. I speak for myself alone, though I have the honour of being a Trustee of the British Museum and also of the Natural History Museum—the sole survivor of the small number of people who were appointed as Trustees of both Museums after the passing of the last British Museum Act. I do not share the view of a number of noble Lords that it would be scandalous to levy charges, but I think it is very much open to question whether, when all the sums have been done and all the exemptions have been provided for, it will be worth while. Therefore I join with other noble Lords in urging my noble friend the Paymaster General and the Government to keep an open mind on this matter until they have received the submissions from the national galleries and museums.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ LORD FLETCHER
My Lords, my only reason for intervening at this late hour is because, like my noble friend Lord Boyd of Merton, I am a Trustee of the British Museum and think it right to make my own position clear in this debate. I must first of all apologise to your Lordships for not having been here earlier. I was detained on public business in the North-East, and I very much regret missing the opportunity of hearing so many of the speeches made earlier in this debate.
There is one thing on which I am quite sure the Paymaster General and all the Trustees of the British Museum will be in agreement; and that is that the British Museum, like I have no doubt other museums throughout the country, is sadly in need of further funds. Nobody knows better than the Paymaster General himself that the British Museum, with its incomparable store of treasures, could render far greater service to the community if it had more funds.
I am not betraying any secret when I tell your Lordships that until the present Administration was formed the Paymaster General and I, and our colleagues 1477 on the Board of Trustees, were considering the necessity of making a public appeal for funds to supplement the amount which the British Museum receives from the Government. We felt that that was essential if we were to improve the service, increase the staff, increase the space and make the fullest use of all the wealth of material which exists—some of it not yet exhibited, owing to lack of space and opportunity, in the British Museum. I am sure that the Paymaster General will realise that if he pursues his present intention of imposing charges on the museums and appropriating to the Treasury the amount so collected, it will make it quite impossible for the Trustees of the British Museum, or of any museum, to launch an appeal for public funds to supplement the amount of money they are receiving from the Government.
I ought to say this. I must admit that on principle I am not entirely at one with some of my colleagues on these Benches who have spoken. I do not see this as a matter of principle. I find it difficult in principle to see the difference between making a charge for going into a museum and making a charge for going into the Tower of London or any of the other monuments owned by what used to be the Ministry of Works. I think it is partly a matter of administrative convenience. I should have been more disposed to support the Government if I thought that any money derived from the charges for entering museums and galleries was going to be used to increase the opportunities which the museums and galleries have.
Since the Government's announcement was made, I have made some inquiries, like my noble friend Lord Boyd of Merton; and I share his view. I am doubtful whether the administrative expense involved, even in a big institution like the British Museum, and still more so in some of the smaller museums, can possibly compensate for the amount of revenue which the Government hope to attract. Therefore I support those who have spoken and very much hope that the Paymaster General will reconsider this matter. I hope that he will be able, in replying to this debate, to give us some assurance that, even if he persists in the Government's announced intention of making charges for entry 1478 into the galleries and museums in this country, the result will be used to improve the total sum available to the museums and galleries for rendering service to the public and that he will use such influence as he can to persuade Her Majesty's Government to take this view.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ LORD STRANGE
My Lords, I speak as a deputy turn, and I have put my name down at the Table. I will not vote in favour of this Motion, because I think that it has not been given enough thought. I have heard a great many brilliant speeches in your Lordships' House to-day but I do not think that your Lordships have got down to the real facts. We all know that museums started with a great deal of public enterprise. People put up money for them because they wanted people to see works of art and mechanical contrivances, as in the old days my ancestors put private money into starting small schools, because they wanted people to learn to read and write, so that they could read their leases and sign them in their favour, which was a very suitable and charitable thing to do. The same principle has continued. People put up money for museums because they wanted other people to go to museums, so that they could appreciate art and appreciate the prices that the people who put up the money wanted to obtain for antiques, which I think is right and praiseworthy in these modern times. The point is that the British Museum wants money: all museums and all charities always want money—but, of course, the British Museum is not a charity, it is a public utility. But they will not get it this way.
I am talking commercially. After all, I run a pub in the Isle of Man, and many people come there. I am not talking nonsense; I am talking commercialism. All right, I want to make money. You could not go about making money in a worse way than this, and that is why I hope the noble Viscount will withdraw his proposed charge. The British people object to paying sixpence, threepence, twopence, a shilling, and so on, to go to museums or other places. You have to stand back and look at the thing. The National Trust, who struggle along without a great deal of assistance, are wonderful, and everybody who comes to this country wants to see their properties. 1479 They make a charge. I give something every year to the National Trust and I get a card, which I always lose. If I had the card I could get into places free, but as I have not got it I pay 2s. 6d. or 3s. to see something that I want to see. Some of the museums in this country, as your Lordships know, make a charge for entrance already, and some of course do not—your Lordships' House, for instance. They let you in, and, if you stay too long, they show you out.
Now let us get down to commercial common sense. We are a great tourist country. Tourists like this country. They like the whole idea. They think we are much nicer than we are, which is a great thing. They like to see the Guards standing at Buckingham Palace; they like to see the soldiers guarding King Charles II's Palace, which has not been inhabited for a great number of years, and nobody is trying to riot against it. What you should do is to sell to all tourists who come into this country a coin or a medal, minted by the Royal Mint, which has the reputation of being the best minter (if that is the right word). You should mint an ordinary coin which can be bought at an ordinary price of, say, 10s., and that 10s. should let them into everything. It would include the whole National Trust properties and all sorts of little, funny things. When you are abroad and going into a cave at Las Caux, or somewhere, you have suddenly to find francs in your pocket, and some old woman who has been got out of bed lets you in with a torch. Here you would show your medal, and you would be in. That kind of method must be established.
I am not criticising the noble Viscount. He just has not thought about tourists and what they are like. The medal I am suggesting would have a date on it. It would be minted by the Royal Mint, and would be what is called a bad coin. If you do not lose it you can get in everywhere. You can go to the British Museum, just as if you are a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club, you go to Lords. You say: "I have a card"— but you have lost it of course. Under this method you can buy a mint coin (I am not talking nonsense) which is either 1480 nickel or silver. Your silver coin costs you £5, but your nickel coin costs you 10s. or £1, or you can have the ordinary coin at the ordinary price. Tourists would buy these things, numbered, with a date and the year on them, because they rise in value. A £5 silver coin will be worth £10. A crown came out in the Isle of Man which was probably the last crown ever issued by the Mint, because of decimal currency. It is a nice coin. The £5 one issued by the Mint was silver. People were buying it in the Isle of Man and selling it in Liverpool for £10.
All you have to do is to make the tourist interested in the thing, to boost it up, so that they say: "I've one, and you haven't". With a scheme founded on that basis much more money will be obtained by the museums than can ever be obtained in this way, which costs labour in issuing and collecting tickets—but I need not go into all that. My Lords, I have spoken!
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ BARONESS LEE OF ASHERIDGE
My Lords, we have now reached a complete Alice in Wonderland atmosphere in this debate. That may not be a bad thing, because in the course of listening to speakers of distinction from every part of the House what has struck me is the number of points that require to be clarified. At least let us be clear about our facts, and then agree to differ, if need be, on the basis of the facts. One fact that I am sure we all accept is that we have been fortunate in that the noble Lord, Lord Annan, has given us the opportunity of debating this important subject.
We have also been fortunate in having two maiden speeches of such distinction. We have had a speech from my noble friend Lady White, with her wide knowledge and interest, beginning with Wales but by no means ending there. Then we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Clark: and no man in this country, no man in the whole field of international Art, commands greater respect than he does. It would be understandable if men of Lord Clark's distinction should live in what is called an ivory castle, and feel that they are making their contribution to their country and to civilisation by their sensitive erudition in their special fields of study. But what is so 1481 encouraging and so wonderful, when we approach this problem of museum charges, is the generosity of spirit that has been shown almost universally by those who have most knowledge and most experience in this field. The Trustees of the Tate and of the National Portrait Gallery have said quite openly that they think this is a most deplorable and regressive thing to do. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, knows perfectly well that he has hardly a single friend among the Trustees of his own beloved British Museum. I know the exception, and, so does he.
We have had a speech, again of great distinction, from the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan. As his trustees have decided that they may have more influence with the Prime Minister by private pressure than by public pressure, the noble Lord said that he was speaking for himself alone. But if you analyse what the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, said, he reduced this whole business to absurdity. If you exempt children; if you exempt students, and accept the fact that you not only have to exempt art students but have to give every opportunity to your scientists and technicians of the future; and if you include also people of retirement age (they have been mentioned), other special students and special readers, who is left?
The noble Lord, Lord Clark, dealt with this and made a very important point indeed—one that I have ventured to stress again and again: that often those who have the most difficulty in finding even the most modest entrance charges are not the students—although they can be very hard up—but the 20 to 30 year olds, the young marrieds. That is why I say that my noble friend Lord Clark, and all his colleagues, would have been making a big enough contribution in many eyes by their distinction and service in the field of the Arts. But to this they add great humanism, great compassion and a great understanding of how ordinary people live—the young couple who have to pay the rent, getting some pieces of furniture together, perhaps with a baby coming along. It is nonsense to say that charges, however moderate, are not inhibiting.
I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, who made the rather unworthy sneer at two great artists, Graham Sutherland and Ben Nicholson, from their so- 1482 called ivory towers in Switzerland. They are high and dry. They were not speaking of their own needs. The great thing about the plea that is going up from the academic world and the artistic world—with a few exceptions, but not very many—is that this is not a pressure lobby, where men are seeking for their own narrow self-interest. They are speaking for the less privileged.
My old friend, Graham Sutherland, is no doubt remembering what happened to him when he was a young man. He had his difficulties; he was earning his living as a school teacher until he was 40 years of age and was befriended by my noble friend Lord Clark. Artists of distinction of the present day—John Piper, Henry Moore and so many others—found easy access to our museums their very life-blood when they were young men. I hope that I shall be able to convert the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, because I am a fantastic optimist. That is why I hope he will forgive me if I ask to have his attention. Many of us in this House have friends among older artists. We know what it must have meant to youngsters like Henry Moore, the boy from the coalfields, to John Piper and Graham Sutherland, to be able to concentrate on their own special line of study. This went far beyond the years when they were students.
So what is left? There are what I call the "gentlefolks", and I mean "gentle folks'. There are a great many people in our country who have not taken part in what we sometimes call the "rat race". There are many gentle families whose wealth has been access to books, to museums and galleries, to pictures and all the treasures of the world. Many of them, sometimes young, sometimes of the middle years, sometimes getting on into the late years, find that this is the joy of their life; and you want to humiliate them.
I went to the Tate the other day and there it was: "Special exhibition, 6s. for adults, 3s. for old age pensioners or students". I want to discuss this point with your Lordships because it brings us on to the question: "Do museum charges prevent people from going to museums?". We have heard quite a number of speeches to-day which show that some Members of this House 1483 genuinely believe that these charges do not deter people from going to museums. But what is the fact? The fact is that we can be proud of the rising standards of education; we can be proud of the fact that for the first time we have had a survey made of the use of museums and galleries by our schools. That had never happened until the last Government came to power. It was all piecemeal before, but we were beginning to get the complete picture. Why? Because for the modern child school is not the classroom within four walls; that rigid old school has gone. Intelligence is interest. You have to excite and interest the child—and how they love getting out of those four walls! When the child goes to a library, a museum, a gallery, the stimulus and excitement of it is the child's school.
If you are going to put charges on museums and galleries, even though you exempt the child, you are still causing an inhibition, because, as has already been said, there are occasions when the child goes with his class, but there should be occasions when the child goes with his family. Where is the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, going to get his million pounds? I am now sheltering behind what are these days the rather dubious pages of The Times, but in a leader yesterday some extraordinary things were said. But one plain fact pointed out was that in the past decade Treasury contributions to the museums and galleries had been quadrupled.
That is not enough. If people are impressed by being informed that we are spending four times more now on museums and galleries, they should ask themselves the question: "Where were we ten years ago?". It obviously shows neglect. In the six years during which I had some responsibility for the Arts, I never nagged, talked about the past, or bragged, because I knew that the very essence of this job was that we had to win friends, support and allies wherever we could find them. I accepted that this was not a sharply dividing Party issue, and it is not. It is not a Party vote in your Lordships' House to-night. Although it is not a Party divide, there is such a thing as Party philosophy, and if the present Government have departed from the philosophy of making the best more 1484 generally available, have they thought out the consequences?
We are told that there is only a derisory minority of intellectuals, or esthetes, interested in this matter. Wait until we start a roll call. Does the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, want peace or war? I want peace. I would rather win a victory than win an argument. But the noble Viscount had better look carefully at what is going to happen in this matter. I do not agree with colleagues who have said that this is a foregone conclusion; that it has all been settled; that we can do nothing about it. It is not a foregone conclusion in the minds of many people who care fervently about those matters. If he will find out what is happening in our universities, among our students, among artists of great distinction of every kind, and among educationists of every kind, the noble Viscount will discover that he is not facing small opposition.
Just as it is not a straightforward Party issue, it is not a straightforward trade union issue, but I have had the most cordial support from Mr. Victor Feather, the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, and he has the endorsement of his General Council. I am not saying that every member of the trade union movement is going to march on this issue. I am not even saying that we have 100 per cent. support in my own Party. We never have 100 per cent, support over anything—and I have just seen my noble friend Lord George-Brown entering the Chamber. The only place where you get 100 per cent. acquiescence is in the grave.
I want the Paymaster General to note that although we may have odd men out in the Labour movement, either on the trade union or on the Labour Party side, the movement is overwhelmingly standing in with those others who care about making the best of the Arts more generally available. So, if I may respectfully say so, the Paymaster General must look to his own troops, because this issue is not going to be decided upon Party lines.[...] think the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, said, very wisely, what most of us would surely agree upon: that at least we ought to know the facts. How much are the charges to be? What are the exemptions going to be? I come back now to the point that charges do not 1485 deter. Would the noble Viscount the Paymaster General think it discourteous of me if I asked him whether the Prime Minister consulted him before sending his reply to the Trustees of the Tate? May I have the answer now?
§ BARONESS LEE OF ASHERIDGE
He did? Well, well, well! I assumed that, but I did not want to take too much for granted, because it is extraordinary. A Prime Minister has the advice of the most distinguished civil servants, experts in the various fields of government; and the Prime Minister also has the advice of his friend and colleague whom he has entrusted with responsibility for the Arts. But in this letter I read:The Trustees' own experience with special exhibitions at the Tate Gallery for which an entry charge is made does not suggest that attendance will be seriously affected by charge.But does the noble Viscount the Paymaster General know the facts? Was the Prime Minister properly informed? Does he know that only one-quarter of that Tate-going public, that special public, old and young, who visited the Tate to see the general exhibition went into those special exhibitions that had to be paid for? Is the noble Viscount going to say that three-quarters of the visitors either went in out of the rain because their feet were tired or were young lovers who wanted to hold hands? We have always had, and let us hope we always shall have, a public who go in for the beauty and the quietness. A sneer we have often had made is that old folks go in to rest their feet, and young ones go in hopefully for purposes that may not be strictly aesthetic. And what better place? But surely not 75 per cent.
Then, we were privileged to have a most wonderful exhibition of paintings loaned to the Tate by Ambassador Annenberg; and this generous patron not only loaned his magnificent collection but also paid all the overheads. That meant that on this occasion no charge for the special exhibition was required. The result was that the number of people going in to see this special exhibition was approximately the same as the total number going into the Tate. My Lords, that is the position concerning the Tate. I 1486 hope that it begins to be clear to Members everywhere why our Trustees and curators and directors, almost without exception, are alarmed by the possibility of charges being made, however small those charges may be.
Now we come to the National Portrait Gallery. The National Portrait Gallery, under its present Trustees and directors, has been doing a wonderful job in carrying out what was the philosophy we hoped we should all agree upon; namely, to make the best of the Arts more generally available. They have also been staging many special exhibitions. But I will tell your Lordships what the sad figures are. At the National Portrait Gallery the proportions of visitors who saw the special exhibitions were these: 13 per cent. in 1968; 14 per cent. in 1969; 10 per cent. in 1970 until we had the Queen's portrait there, when the figure went up to 44 per cent. That was splendid, because new audiences were attracted who had gone in because the subject was the Queen; others went in because it was a highly controversial portrait. Those who visit the gallery have their fare to pay, but at the end of the day they have not seen the highlights. Of course, we all like to see what is over the wall, and curiosity alone should be enough to ensure that anyone who goes into any of our great museums or galleries wants to see the special exhibitions.
THE EARL OF DUDLEY
My Lords, could the noble Baroness tell us what was the scale of charges for the special exhibition?
§ BARONESS LEE OF ASHERIDGE
My Lords, the scale of charges for the Tate when I was there the other day was 6s. for adults and half for students and for old people. I do not know the other charges. I think, however, if the noble Earl will forgive me, that the figure is irrelevant. As the noble Lord, Lord Clark, said, at one time 6d. was charged to keep people out. The fact is that there is no money in this for the Government. If this were something about which it could be said, "We are in a great national crisis. We are against this on principle, but it is going to bring in a hundred million", or a thousand million, then we could understand it. But this is not even chickenfeed.
1487 My Lords, think of the indignity of the situation in which if you can pay you go in on the quiet days, and if you cannot afford to pay then maybe there will be a free day. Need we be as undignified as all that? Do your Lordships know the figures for the great Museum of Modern Art in New York? On Sunday, a free day, 30,000 people clamour to go in; on days when they must pay, an average of 1,000. Do we want that kind of indignity? And are the people who can pay the people most interested?
I think we are very indebted for a brochure on this subject that has been produced by Mr. Basil Taylor and for which Mr. Hugh Leggatt is responsible. I should like to quote one sentence from itThere is no relationship between the ability to pay and the possession of any of those capacities and instincts which determine the response to Art, intellectual curiosity and the desire for artistic understanding. It was a recognition of this that made the museums free institutions a century ago.Would anyone really challenge that? Elderly people may be jostled around because the only day when they can go in is the free day. This applies to all kinds of gentlefolks for whom this is their life. And are those of us who can afford to pay going to feel very comfortable? If we go "lording it" on the day when money is being charged, is it because we are so superior? It is the indignity of it! It is the triviality of it!
One of your Lordships said "the time had come". The time had come! Even in the between-wars years, with over 2 million unemployed—in the year 1923 to which my noble friend Lord Shinwell has referred—this proposition of charging was looked at and discarded. It was discarded by some on principle, and discarded by other sensible people because they knew it was not worth collecting. That was 1923. What about 1945? What about the period in our history when we had lost two-thirds of our overseas assets, when our cities were blitzed and our industries disintegrated? In 1945–50 we had courage. We never even thought about a retrograde step like this. What did we do instead? We built the Festival Hall: that was done by the old London County Council. We had the Festival of Britain. We reopened Covent Garden. I can remem 1488 ber in my own home in those years Noel Coward urgently pleading for Drury Lane to be reopened. We were not always serious, not always concerned only about the highest levels of art. So we listened to him and fixed it. Nor did we apologise to people who still did not have homes or did not have hospital beds, because it is a recipe for barbarism to say that the priorities of a civilised Government must not make at least a small provision for the things of the spirit.
This is the test of any Government and I would tell the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that I am not joking or teasing him: I mean it literally when I say that I have a vested interest in his success. I told him on a previous occasion that I was his best friend because when he went to his Prime Minister and his Chancellor of the Exchequer he could quite properly use the record of the last Labour Government as his battering ram; and he did it, I am sure. He may say, "Well, we must do better than that". I hope he will. That was why I pointed out that the allocation for museums and galleries had been quadrupled in the last ten years; so I hope that we shall see it more than quadrupled in the next ten years. I know that is what the noble Viscount wants. This is why he is a mystery character: because he cares about these things.
He speaks about museums and galleries, and I agree with him when he says that the museums and galleries should earn more money. And since I have a colleague from the Treasury sitting behind me (and we all know that we are not always, when Ministers. 100 per cent. in agreement with our Treasury colleagues), I think I must in common fairness say that when, along with the then Paymaster General, I was fighting in order that our museums and galleries should be released to earn more money, and that the practice of the best should be the practice of all, it was not—for once—the Treasury officials who formed the obstacle, but the Accounts Committee. I congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that he has an extremely businesslike Labour Chairman of his Accounts Committee, and I wish him all success. There is no doubt at all, in my view, that many of the restrictions—and we have agreed about that—were quite unnecessary.
1489 I now come to what the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, had to say. I am glad he worked out the figures for me, because I too was thinking of those £350 million-worth of sixpences that we are collecting. Surely we could spare one of those millions in order to save our precious national institutions from these charges. I am very glad to know—because I did not know before—that if a person has an income of £5,000 a year it would cost him only 5s. a year. Mind you! if your income is £25 a week, the present 6d. will give you 4s. 2d., so you might be losing about a penny.
What does this all amount to? It means that we belong to a great country which has had many a crisis in the past. It had a crisis of deep unemployment between the wars; it had a much worse crisis than anything the present Government are facing, immediately after the Second World War. But no Government, Conservative or Labour, has ever thought of doing anything so trivial, and, I believe, so self-defeating, as this measure.
What I consider is happening is that the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, is committing ideological hari-kid, and why should he? There is no money in this for him; therefore there must be an ideal in it for him; and the ideal he has is that people should pay. Even if you insist on payment, because of rising standards of education there is a natural growth in the number of people who want to visit our museums and galleries. Even charges will not prevent this kind of growth, but what the Government are doing is making it not only difficult but impossible for some people to share in one of the most civilised of pleasures.
And I do not think it is the numbers that count. I believe that this is a thoroughly wrong thing to do; I think it is against the whole trend of education. It will be resented and I believe it will be a running sore in the side of the Government. They must not imagine that the people who are opposing these charges will be drawn only from one Party or from one group in society. There will be a continuing campaign, and there is no reason at all why the Paymaster General, whom we all respect in this House—we know his deep concern, we know how hard he worked for the British Museum—should spoil his reputation, antagonise the entire student population 1490 that is concerned about those things. Therefore, if the Paymaster General is not prepared to save himself, I ask Members on all sides of the House to unite and rescue him in spite of himself.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, if I have the permission of the House I will speak again. First, I think the debate has been remarkable, not only for the quality of the speeches but for the number that we have got in before nine o'clock. I think there have been 32 speeches in all, and I am sure that all noble Lords who have listened will have welcomed the brevity of the speeches. This is a good example, because we might have other debates in which we want to have 30 speeches by nine o'clock, and I must thank all noble Lords who have taken part.
I must add my tribute to the two maiden speakers. When one is translated from another place one often misses old friends—the people one used to hear in the other place. Then one day they turn up here, and as I was listening to the noble Baroness, Lady White, I thought, "Well, that is the old charm, that is the old skill; how agreeable it is to hear the noble Lady again". Certainly I listened with great interest and seriousness to what she said, and especially about the particular position in Wales, which I can tell her is rather complicated. One day she might like to have a word with me about it.
As for the noble Lord, Lord Clark, when I was a boy of 14 at Winchester he knocked my front teeth out with a racquet, and when he began his maiden speech to-day I thought he was going to knock the rest of them out. But he was kinder than I expected and certainly we are fortunate to have him here. Whenever we have a debate on the Arts I am sure that it will be the wish of all of us to persuade him to come and speak again.
I do not want to keep your Lordships long, so I will try to say what I think has been the essence of a fascinating debate. Of course, we got into a bit of a muddle as to whether there was a principle at stake. I think the answer is that if by "principle" you mean are we doing something we have never done before in charging an entrance fee at a museum, 1491 or some historic place where people go to see beautiful objects, then of course there is not a principle. Nor do I think there is a principle as between the visual Arts and the other Arts. Of course we can argue that as long as we like. Some people would say, "Well, I like Picasso at the Tate; it is from Picasso that I get great nourishment". Other people would say, "I like Judy Dench at the Royal Shakespeare", and so far as I know my young people, one would settle for the one, and the other for the other.
I do not think that there is a great difference between the contribution to the quality of life of one of the fine arts as against the other, but that is not really what your Lordships have been debating. I think what you have been debating is the fact that if charges are put on, some people who now go to museums will be deterred from going; but none of us knows how many. We can all speculate upon that. I do not myself think that the example from the Tate special exhibitions is particularly convincing, because 6s. is a large amount to pay for a special exhibition. When the Picasso exhibition was on, half a million people paid to go and see it. It depends very much on what the special exhibition is. In the normal way quite a lot of people would probably not be as interested in the special exhibition, as in the rest of the gallery, and that is why you do not get them all going in. But there is no way of proving how many people will be deterred. I want to say, as sincerely as I can, that I think it is really sad when anybody does not have the chance to get that spiritual nourishment, which the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, spoke about so well, in going to a place of art. This is a deprivation which we must take into account.
Really the debate is about whether it is more important to maintain the museums as they are, with no charges, and therefore some people visiting them who will not visit them if they are charged, or whether it is more important—especially given not only the number of people going now but the increasing number of people we all know will go year by year—to put ourselves in a position really to develop the museum service. I think there is fairly general agreement among your Lordships that a 1492 great deal wants doing in the museums, especially if you consider the provincial museums as well as those in London.
I do not think much has been said about what still must be done for the scholars. Personally, when I was at the British Museum I worried very much about the scholars, because though they are small in number I believe that their contribution to our civilisation is enormous. It is absolutely clear that in many museums the number of scholars for which they cater, and their needs—proper places to work at, sufficient staff to assist in research et cetera—is now becoming a terrible problem. The Director of the British Museum has to write to all the American universities and ask them to tell their scholars who come here, mainly in the summer months, "Please stagger your visits, because otherwise you will not find anywhere to work". I looked at the Tate Gallery report recently and saw that their great desire is to carry further their work with scholars in art. This is a very important question, and we ought not to forget it when we come to the, by comparison, numerically larger problem.
There is a point where, if the museums are not properly equipped—and mainly this means more gallery space and more amenities and more information—the crowds become self-defeating. I have seen that in the summer months here already. It is interesting to notice that the advice I have received from the Directors so far—and more than half of them have already tendered their advice—is against free days of any kind, because they already know what happens on the days when they have their largest numbers, and they are afraid that the same thing will happen on the free days. I think this is very important. I am very interested in this, because this is exactly what is going to happen, as has already happened in America. In some of the great museums in America now they ration the people; you have to book in advance in order to get into the museum. This is going to happen here, and there are several ways in which we can deal with it. We can adopt the rationing method, and say, "We are not going to have more than a certain number of children every day." I was talking the other day to the Director of a splendid museum in Toulouse. He has now cut down the number of children entering in 1493 any one day to three parties, maximum thirty each. But surely the right thing to do is to find enough money to expand the museums we already have and make them capable of handling very much larger numbers than they can now. That is my ambition. It will cost a very great deal of money.
It would be very agreeable if there were a certain prospect of getting something like the capital programme, which will end up, if we do it properly, at something between £5 million and £10 million, plus all the consequential recurrent grants. It would be splendid if I could stand here and say that this money will be available. Of course I cannot. There is competition from other parts of the Government service, and I may say that the defects in the Health Service, and what my right honourable friend has to do to put them right, add up to a tremendous amount.
With this competition for money, and with the Government absolutely determined to contain the rise in their expenditure, what really ought I to do? I could advise the House to let the museums continue as they are, with no charges and with no prospect of any large additions to the Vote. I could, on the other hand, say, as I do, that if we make this contribution, along with those who are paying more for their subscriptions, school meals, council rents and the rest, we shall be in a fair position when resources are available. I have all my life been an expansionist, very devoted to museums, and I would say to your Lordships that a vote for charging is now a vote for the improvement of the museum service.
There are just one or two questions I should like to deal with before I finally wind up. One is about children, which was raised by several noble Lords, including the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, who I thought made an excellent speech, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lee. The directors who have written to me have said that there are two kinds of children; those who come in organised parties and those who come by themselves. All directors, and, I am certain, every noble Lord, want the organised parties of children to be as well catered for as possible. That means that you have to communicate with the teachers beforehand, provide them with a certain amount of 1494 notes and, when they get there, with a guide and perhaps a lecture. All that, they say, will be much easier to organise when there is a system of charging, whether or not the children are charged anything, because they will have to be known. This is an ordinary administrative fact. You will be able to deal with these children much more rationally and intelligently afterwards.
As to the other children, one sees them in the museums where they are a most agreeable and amusing sight. But it depends on how many of them there are. I have been in the Egyptian galleries of the British Museum, when they have been playing "cops and robbers" round the Rosetta Stone, in and out of the bays and—
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
That is a fact. If any noble Lord cares to come on some day and see this, it is quite amusing. But it is a question of how many there should be on any one day.
§ LORD PLATT
My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount a question? In which group does he think that the geniuses of the future will be—among those who are herded in by the schools, or among those who go in on their own account? Because they are more important than the rest of us.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, I do not know that I can answer that question, because a number of the schoolchildren that I have seen in museums are extremely intelligent. They enjoy the experience enormously. They bring their sketch books and benefit greatly from having a teacher who can tell them what it is they are looking at.
THE EARL OF DUDLEY
My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount whether he will undertake that in considering any representations that are made on this point he will consider them on their merits, and not with a view to achieving any financial targets—in other words, that the children will be taken on their merits and not as part of a financial undertaking?
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, certainly. I think it is fairly well known that we wish to bring the educational service a great deal closer to the museums than at present. I would not have anything happen under a system of charges which might hold up the connection between the museums and the schools, the technical colleges, and other forms of further education.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, I think the House wants me to finish as soon as I can. As to the regular visitor, for whom we all have great sympathy, I really think that a season ticket which admits one to all 18 national museums and galleries will not cost very much. I ventured in my first speech to say that it would cost no more than one orchestra stall seat at the Coliseum. No doubt there will be a rebate for students. I do not think that that is going to embarrass the young people of to-day, and probably it will be a great convenience to people who are making a fortnight's tour of the country or something of that kind.
The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, asked me whether I would be flexible in considering the system of charges. The answer is, of course, yes. It is quite interesting that already the directors' replies are showing up considerable differences between one museum and another. That is exactly what we expected, because they are not all the same; and I undertake to the House that no system will be finally settled without the fullest consultation. I am taking into account many of the difficulties. I know the inside of the British Museum. I know that we give a free ticket to the Readers. That is Going to cause considerable difficulty, but we must do it. I know what these difficulties are going to be like. But I am equally sure that, with good will and with good planning, we can overcome them.
My Lords, it all comes back to this: Do you think that the museums ought to have a policy of expansion? If you do, then I have to tell you that it is sensible to get some contribution towards the future of what I believe to be one of the greatest areas of adult education, let alone of children's. Therefore, I must ask the House to oppose the Motion.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, I think the House is with me in seeking to come to a conclusion on this debate. We have been at it a good time, but I should like to thank noble Lords and noble Baronesses for the marvellous way in which they have responded on this occasion. It has been a splendid debate. I want also to add my congratulations to the two maiden speakers who "did us proud" and certainly lent great distinction to our counsels to-day.
When I was asked by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, to withdraw my Unstarred Question and was then offered by the Leader of the Opposition this day (which of course is an Opposition day) I said that I should be willing to introduce a debate, provided that the Motion was a conciliatory one: because, like all who are concerned with the trustees, or with the management or direction of museums and galleries, I have a horror of museums and galleries becoming a political issue, dividing the nation and the political Parties. That is why the Motion is framed in these terms.
I asked the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, whether he would reconsider the matter, and I put to him various ways in which I thought the museums might respond if the matter were put back to them and they were asked to produce some suggestions. He refused in his opening speech, and in his last speech I did not hear any suggestion that he was willing to reconsider the matter. Therefore, though I have been asked by many noble Lords not to press this Motion to a Division, I feel that I must do so, because I know perfectly well that if I did not some other noble Lord would be fully entitled to do so.
There is only one thing that I should like to say, in reply to one point. That is that the Paymaster General has told us that it is the policy of his Party to review the whole business of subsidies and charges, and particularly, he says, in the social services, so that those who can afford to pay should pay. He is also presumably employing the principle of "clawback". The only trouble about museums and galleries is that you cannot employ "clawback" at the turnstiles. That is really the only point I wanted to make in reply because the House. I am sure, now wishes to divide.
1497 I should, however, like to make one last point. This is, as I have said, a conciliatory Motion; it simply asks for reconsideration, and I will not add one word of condemnation of the Government for their attitude at this moment. All I ask is for reconsideration, and I hope that those who wish the matter to be recon
§ sidered and put back to the museums and galleries will support me in the Lobbies.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents 84; Not-Contents, 121.1499
|Annan, L. [Teller.]||Gaitskell, Bs.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Gardiner, L.||Phillips, Bs.|
|Arwyn, L.||Garnsworthy, L.||Platt, L.|
|Bacon, Bs.||Geddes of Epsom, L.||Plummer, Bs.|
|Barrington, V.||George-Brown, L.||Popplewell, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Granville of Eye, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Hamnett, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Bowden, L.||Henderson, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Bowles, L.||Heycock, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Brockway, L.||Hilton of Upton, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Brown, L.||Hirshfield, L.||Shaftesbury, E.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Hoy, L.||Sherfield, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, Bs.||Hughes, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Byers, L.||Jacques, L.||Slater, L.|
|Champion, L.||Kennet, L.||Snow, L.|
|Chester, L. Bp.||Kilbracken, L.||Sorensen, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Lee of Asheridge, Bs.||Stocks, Bs.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Lindgren, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Crook, L.||Llewelyn-Davies, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. [Teller.]||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Delacourt-Smith, L.||Wade, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Longford, E.||White, Bs.|
|Douglass of Cleveland, L.||Loudoun, C.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Maelor, L.||Wise, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Marks of Broughton, L.||Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.|
|Fiske, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Fletcher, L.||Morris of Kenwood, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Foot, L.||Norwich, V.|
|Aberdare, L.||Colville of Culross, V.||Gridley, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Conesford, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.|
|Aldenham, L.||Cowley, E.||Hailsham of St. Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)|
|Aldington, L.||Craigavon, V.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Cranbrook, E.||Hatherton, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Daventry, V.||Hawke, L.|
|Amory, V.||De Clifford, L.||Headfort, M.|
|Audley, Bs.||Denham, L. [Teller.]||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Devonshire, D.||Hylton-Foster, Bs.|
|Barnby, L.||Drumalbyn, L.||Ilford, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Dudley, E.||Inglewood, L.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Dundee, E.||Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Bessborough, E.||Dundonald, E.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Eccles, V.||Kinnoull, E.|
|Blakenham, V.||Egremont, L.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Elgin and Kincardine, E.||Lindsey and Abinger, E.|
|Bradford, E.||Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Lothian, M.|
|Brecon, L.||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Exeter, M.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Falmouth, V.||Macpherson of Drumochter, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Ferrers, E.||Mansfield, E.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Ferrier, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Gage, V.||Milverton, L.|
|Caccia, L.||Gowrie, E.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.|
|Caldecote, V.||Gray, L.||Monk-Bretton, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Greenway, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Grenfell, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Nairne, Bs.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.||Strange of Knokin, Bs.|
|Nelson of Stafford, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]||Strathcarron, L.|
|Netherthorpe, L.||St. Helens, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Nugent of Guildford, L.||St. Just, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Oakshott, L.||St. Oswald, L.||Tenby, V.|
|O'Neill of the Maine, L.||Salisbury, M.||Terrington, L.|
|Poole, L.||Sandford, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Rankeillour, L.||Sandys, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Rathcavan, L.||Savile, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Reay, L.||Selsdon, L.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.|
|Redmayne, L.||Sempill, Ly.||Vivian, L.|
|Reigate, L.||Skelmersdale, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Rochdale, V.||Stamp, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Rowallan, L.||Strange, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.