HL Deb 22 November 1971 vol 325 cc843-84

4.14 p.m.

Second Reading debate resumed.


My Lords, we have just had a very welcome Statement from the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, about buildings for health purposes: now we turn back to the Second Reading of a Bill which, we understand from my noble friend the Minister, may provide more buildings for the Arts. Before I make one or two points about the Bill, may I make it clear that I am speaking in a personal capacity and not, for example, as a member of the Council of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Like, I believe, many of your Lordships, when I heard initially of the proposal which is given form in this Bill—namely, that there were to be charges for admission to museums—my instinct was one of dismay, and I was against it; and we all know that many of the governing bodies of the museums, and indeed many other people who care earnestly about these things, felt the same way. But, my Lords, the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether my instinct is right.

The first reason why I wonder whether my instinct is right is when I think of the position with regard to many of the other Arts, be it music, be it the theatre, be it television or the cinema (because they sometimes are in the artistic field) or be it the written word, poetry or prose. In all those cases, those who participate invariably have to pay, and indeed expect to pay, I think, in one way or another. What is it that gives the visual Arts the special right not to have to pay? My Lords, I cannot really find any good reason. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, was talking about the National Gallery, and he said that for over 200 years no payment had been demanded. That, I know, is in a sense a good reason—


I am sorry, my Lords; I did not want to interrupt the noble Earl. I was talking about the British Museum.


My Lords, my point is the same. I am sorry if I said the National Gallery; I should have said the British Museum. I can well understand that there is a traditional reason why people mind. But, my Lords, tradition or custom are only wise if they continue to be sound, and I think that in this case tradition is no longer sound. We have heard from the noble Viscount the Minister that there is a great need for the expansion of museums, be it by way of new buildings, be it by improvements in existing buildings, be it by help for the Provinces or be it help for travelling exhibitions—for all the things which we know are greatly needed. But those things take money, and we have also heard—and we all know this—that costs have gone up greatly.

Now what is it that allows us to say, "Very well, but the visual Arts should be free; the museums and galleries are exempt from this "? My Lords, I cannot find the answer. Indeed, I should like to think of it in a much more positive way: not as an excuse, but positively to welcome this enabling Bill if it means that the sort of things which I care about and which many of those who visit the museums care about are going to happen: that we are going to see better museums and are going to have more certainty that the treasures which might otherwise leave this country will remain here. I also understand the difficulty that Ministers may have when they are fighting a battle against others who have claims on the Treasury. We all know the difficulties that any Ministry has in trying to get its share of the cake. Suppose, my Lords, the Treasury said, "For the Arts, certainly, we are very ready to increase the amount that is available—for the theatre, for music and for others of the Arts. But since the visual Arts do not seem to care very much and are not prepared to pay, we are going to leave that Vote where it is". That sort of consideration surely indicates the importance of those who participate making some payment.

It has been suggested that we might get around the difficulty by some form of voluntary subscription. I should like to tell your Lordships of an experience which happened to my wife and me a few weeks ago, when we were in America. One day my wife visited the Metropolitan Museum in New York—and we had often heard that this was a very good example of how the Americans work these things voluntarily. Before my wife had gone very far she was stopped by an attendant who said, "You have not got a badge ". She said, "A badge? I do not understand. What is a badge for?". He answered: "You have to get a badge. You have to make a payment, otherwise you cannot come in. "Then she went to where she had to make the payment and asked, "How much?." The reply was, "Well, it is voluntary; but the usual thing is about one dollar. "Now if my arithmetic is right, one dollar is worth about 40p and what I gather the Minister is proposing at the present time is 10p. I went a little later; I went about 4.30 in the afternoon and I was expecting the same experience. It did not happen. Nobody stopped me. I do not think that I was so dressed as to make them think that I could not make a voluntary subscription. I suspect that the reason was a simple one: it was that it was 4.30 p.m. We must remember that the museums close at 5 p.m., and the people simply thought that it was not then worth trying to get people to pay because of the short time remaining before the museum closed.

That brings me to a suggestion that I should like to put to the Minister. Could he not adopt the same practice here? Could he not allow entrance to be free from, say, half an hour before closing time? I am sure that the attendants, who probably have many other duties, would welcome the fact that they would no longer have to worry about turnstiles. It would go some way to ensure that those who wanted to go, and who really cared, would have a chance to do so. I should have thought that, in practice, there was a lot to be said for this idea; and the principle of free entrance would be in some small degree retained. I hope that my noble friend will think about that and perhaps will even be able to say that it is a "starter."

My Lords, I know that I have not talked about the Bill as such; but I do not think that ordinarily it is expected that speakers, other than Ministers, in a Second Reading debate should do anything more than talk in rather general terms in relation to the Bill. I am worried about its possible relation to Scotland and particularly in relation to the National Gallery there and the Torrie pictures. When the gift was made costs were very different and the requirements of museums were very different. I wonder whether the donor would have expected the same rule to apply to-day when people are very much better off and when, by and large, they can afford to pay. I am sure that if I were a trustee I should feel that it was not breaking faith to acknowledge that there should be some payment for seeing those pictures. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, who said that this was a sad day because it was the beginning of a time when museums were going to charge. I think my view would be that, if it means better things for museums, it is not a sad day. I think it is a day when I shall be glad because it means that things which I want to see happen will come about.


My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down may I ask him to face this fact: that museums do not exist for trustees; that they exist to enable those who are very poor (as I once was) to get an idea of culture and imagination? My visits to the museums gave me a new inspiration. Does he not think therefore that if you are going to make an entrance charge that such people will not go to them—as I would not have gone? Does not that fact make this a sad day? Does it not make this a sad day for the noble Earl that I might not have gone?


My Lords, I do not quite know how to answer the noble Lord. From his point of view it might have been very sad; but I wonder whether, really and truly, he would not somehow have—


Not a possibility, my Lords!


My Lords, if he could have gone with a school party, which is allowed to go in free—he shakes his head. Perhaps he would not have wanted to go.


My Lords, it was not possible.


But, my Lords, the opportunity would be there to-day; and we are talking of to-day and not of the past.


My Lords, I do not want to take up the noble Earl's time but I have always regarded him as a man of gentle feelings.

Is it not rather strange that he should say that people are so much better off to-day when we have this background of a million unemployed? Is he forgetting them?


My Lords, I do not think that that is a point which is relevant to this discussion. Like all noble Lords, I deeply regret the unemployment figures. On Wednesday we are to have a debate on the Scottish economy when I shall hope to be able to throw out some ideas on that; but I think that that subject is not related to this Bill.

My Lords, I will finish in this way. While I regret that Lord George-Brown, as he said, would not have gone to any museum, I think that if this step means better museums up and down the country, and better opportunities for people to see them, then on balance that will be the best thing.

4.27 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, in opposing this Second Reading pointed out, correctly I think, that there are very few measures which this Government are proposing to which the Opposition have such strong hostility and objection. This is a surprising state of affairs; and I hope this afternoon to say a few words to try to clear up in my own mind, and perhaps in some others, why this is and whether it is correct. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, raised the point about the poor, because this is something which bears directly on the principle behind this Bill. It is something which worried me in the beginning, something which I think can be solved and about which I should like to make one or two suggestions. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, when he introduced his Motion last autumn also expressed his worries about people no longer being able to "pop in for half an hour "to the galleries and the British Museum. This is another worry. These are points of detail which perhaps will be cleared up when, after the Bill has become law, a little time has elapsed and we have been able to see how it works.

First, the problem of the poor who visit the galleries, who find in them inspiration and who, some people are afraid, will not be able to do so in the future. A large number of these are students. Students, I imagine, make up a large proportion of the poor, nowadays. Their income is very low and the £1 which it will cost to buy a season ticket is a large sum of money to them. I am wondering whether something more could not be done for students. I know that a scheme is under way providing for them to go round in organised parties and I hope that my noble friend the Paymaster General will be able to answer one question which interests me about whether students and schoolchildren can find some means of going round museums and galleries on their own. I am told—and I hope that the Paymaster General will be able to put me right on this point—that it is possible, or that it may be possible, for students and schoolchildren to go to their teacher and say, "I am interested in going to the British Museum "—or to the National Gallery or to some local authority museum—"frequently. Could you please write me a note to enable me to gain admittance?" I am sure that teachers would be only too pleased to do so.


My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord would like me to answer straight away. Yes, of course that is going to be allowed, in exactly the same way as a student wishing to get a reader's ticket to the British Museum or the Victoria and Albert Reading Room gets a chit; and they come all the time. I think that is a very satisfactory process because the staff then know whether the young person has a serious interest in the museum and they are more likely to help.


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, continues his speech, may I say that I think he has raised a very important point. The noble Viscount the Paymaster General says, "Yes, they can get chits ". I am not interested in whether their teacher knows that young people are interested; I am interested in how much it is going to cost to provide all these exemptions. At the end of the day how much do we get out of it, and would not it be better just to encourage children to go all the time free?


Well, my Lords, as I understand it, the Government are obviously doing their best to keep down the cost of administering the scheme. It is made clear in the White Paper that the Government do not expect the cost of administration to be more than 10 per cent. of the receipts. I am glad to say that the Paymaster General has confirmed my impression that some sort of scheme about chits can be, and will be, arranged. I think that this could be done within the range of the 10 per cent. administration costs, and that would be excellent. I trust that such a scheme will work well.

The problem about people visiting a museum for half an hour is, I think, a real one. I often spend periods of even less than half an hour in the National Gallery. I shall buy a season ticket when it becomes necessary to do so and I shall not be discouraged from going there. The only thing that might discourage me—here again I think this is a point which the Paymaster General might answer later if he is able to do so—is a small matter but one which frequently arises. What happens if I have left my season ticket at home? Do I have to pay? My Lords, I am a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club and I frequently drop in there for half an hour. Sometimes I do not have my ticket with me. If that happens, I am invited by the attendant to sign a book and declare that I am a member and entitled to free entry. Would it be possible to have a book available for people to sign when they attend without their tickets? Otherwise there may be some people who wish to visit a museum for half an hour but would not do so.

The other main category of the poor are the old-age pensioners. I am delighted to hear that they will be admitted for only 5p the whole year round. I wonder whether it might not be simpler to let them in entirely free. I cannot think of any reason why not, although there may be an administrative reason. If there is, I hope that my noble friend the Paymaster General will be able to tell your Lordships about it. One of the problems of this scheme, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, is that we need to keep the administrative costs as low as possible, and this bedevils all the exemptions which noble Lords would like to see introduced. It is a question of striking a balance between a whole range of possible exemptions and a prohibitive cost of administration.

The other main objection to the Government scheme is that fewer people will visit museums. I have not seen much convincing evidence that this will happen. That objection has been raised airily, and facts have been quoted about the number of people who attend at New York museums on non-paying days compared with the number who attend on paying days. I am not sure that that is very relevant. On the other side, some very convincing evidence has been provided about increases in charges to visit the Tower of London and the Jewel House. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, if it is her impression that these charges will in general reduce attendances, will be able to give the House her reasons and we shall see whether noble Lords are convinced by her argument.


My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord would allow me to answer that question straight away. I think that the general increase in interest in museums, the teaching that goes on in schools and the rest of it, will mean that the forward flow of attendance will increase. That does not alter the fact that some people will be excluded.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness and I agree that some people will be excluded. My noble friend admitted that. He said that a few people would be either unwilling or unable to pay. Again we are reducing the question to one of striking a balance. My noble friend does not believe that the number of such people will be very great and neither do I, especially if the Government are able to work out one or two further exemptions to enable the poor to attend museums and galleries as frequently as they would like.

My personal view, with which I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, seems to agree, is that when charges are introduced initially attendances may dip very slightly but will soon pick up and increase, probably at the same rate as at present, which is very fast indeed. If that does not happen I shall be very surprised and I shall eat my words. If the scheme is modified after two or three years, which may happen because my noble friend the Paymaster General has not ruled out that possibility—he is not being dogmatic and is prepared to consider suggestions for modifications as and when it seems necessary—and should it emerge that the attendances drop, I would support a radical modification in the whole principle. But I do not think that will happen and I am glad that the noble Baroness seems to take the same view.

The expression "matter of principle" has cropped up frequently in the three debates that we have had on this question as also has the term "ideology". I think that is right: it is a question of principle and of ideology. The noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, suggested last autumn that the Paymaster General was committing"ideological hara kiri". I would agree with the noble Baroness that if she were a Member of a Government and introducing such a scheme, it would be ideological hara kiri;. it would be contrary to the ideology of her Party. But it seems to me that for the Paymaster General, a member of the Conservative Party, to do so is the very opposite; if you like, it is ideological resurrection.

The Government could have approached this problem of providing the necessary better facilities in our museums and galleries by allocating the taxpayers' money purely and simply where it was necessary. But from our ideology there are objections to that. One, of course, is that, on the face of it, it is unfair to most taxpayers who do not want to visit museums. Against that, of course, we have to balance the need of education and the cultural needs of the community.

Noble Lords on both sides of the House rightly take the view that subsidies out of general taxation are necessary to serve the minority which takes a particular interest in culture. But the present Government have taken rather the way of compromise. They have taken an approach very similar to that adopted by successive Governments towards university education. University education is the right of all who can attain the necessary qualifications and obtain a place at a university. If one obtains a place, one is expected, if one can afford it, to pay a contribution. If one cannot afford it, one does not pay a contribution. Ideo logically this is totally consistent with the views of this Government and of the Party which forms the Government in the scheme by which users of museums and galleries will pay a small contribution—one-tenth of what we are told is the cost of every visit, on what I imagine is a rough-and-ready computation.

It seems to me only fair that the consumer should pay for an experience which is not only educational but also entertaining and generally worth while in every way, if he can afford it. If he cannot, then he should obtain it free, as he obtains other necessary social services free. This is pure Conservative thinking. Finally, since to my mind the Opposition have failed to show that the proposed charges will put visits to museums and galleries beyond the pockets of a significant number of the public, and since they have failed to show up to now that attendances will decrease, I will support the Second Reading of the Bill.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, I must say that I was fascinated by the suggestion of the noble Lord who just sat down that the system of gallery charges should be placed on the same footing as university finance. My imagination boggles at the thought of administering a scheme whereby people with an income over a limit of £1,500 a year or something of that sort pay and the rest get in free. I doubt whether the Paymaster General, with his accustomed ingenuity, will be able to get round that one.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, I was not suggesting that this scheme should be put on the same administrative footing at all. I was saying that the idological principle was similar.


My Lords, I think that I ought to declare an interest in this matter. I am, and have been for many years, I am lucky to say, a trustee of the National Gallery. That is to say, I belong to that sociological classification which the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, I notice, alludes to frequently, sometimes I am sorry to say with evident distaste, as the"artistic establishment". In plain English, we are a body of persons appointed by Her Majesty's Government, who according to their lights, no doubt very dim in the estimation of the noble Viscount, spend a good deal of their spare time trying to preserve and improve the galleries and museums which are the heritage of the people of this country.

I dare say that we do not always put our case very well. Obviously we have totally failed to impress the noble Viscount. But certainly we, too, have the concern which I know personally the noble Viscount has, for the quality of life of the ordinary people. I must say that it saddens me a little to think that the noble Viscount, whose achievements I admire and whose intentions I respect should habitually speak of us, as he did in last Saturday's Times, as a sort of esoteric, self-admiration society, out of touch with life and incapable of rational argument or comprehension. But all that is by way of a declaration of interest.

On the main subject of the debate, I should like to say at once that I do not rise to rehearse once again all the arguments against the principle of charging. In common with my friends at the National Gallery, I greatly regret what we are being compelled to do—that, of course, is the plain fact of the matter. But I personally agree that there are arguments in favour of charges which reasonable men can discuss among themselves without bitterness. Certainly I think that the noble Viscount is right when he argues that what is done so widely elsewhere and also sometimes at home—I was glad that my article reminded him that charges were made at Hampton Court and that he has also let your Lordships into the secret that charges have been made at the Tower of London—cannot be regarded as one of the major social outrages. I agree with him, too, though some noble Lords may not agree with me on this, that it cannot be regarded as being a tremendous financial burden on the majority I say "the majority" and not all—of the users of the galleries.

I cannot, of course, agree with the noble Viscount's funny argument, lumping the National Gallery with the Royal Opera House. I should prefer to lump the National Gallery with St. James's Park, both State supported institutions which are not overcrowded at a zero price. But I really fail to understand the noble Viscount on the question of overcrowding. At one time he seemed to be in favour of charges to prevent overcrowding and at other times he declared his scorn for any such argument.

Leaving that rather esoteric point apart, I regret the disappearance of a freedom of which we were all proud, which was envied by the curators of and visitors to galleries abroad where no such freedom exists—that is to say, the freedom of all citizens, both dustmen and dukes, to enjoy together the delights of a great spiritual heritage given or bequeathed, chiefly by private donors, for exactly that purpose. It is not only a case of one or two Scottish bequests, important as they are, which fall into that category. More than three-quarters of the pictures in the National Gallery have been given to and not bought by the nation. And although, of course, it is a foolish game to argue too much about the intentions of the dead, I think I would stick my neck out and say that most of them, from J. W. M. Turner downwards, hoped that all at large would be free to enjoy the riches that they were leaving behind them. That has gone.

As trustees, we were not consulted before the charge was announced. I read in The Times that there were procedural reasons, though not revealed beforehand to members of the National Gallery, even if they had been public servants, why no hint could be given before the production of the mini-Budget; though it has occurred to me, going back to my recollection as a public servant, that feelers can be put out without indiscretion, so as to give Ministers the benefit of the opinion of those most closely in touch. However, we were not consulted. We made private representations to the noble Viscount and we made public statements, I hope always of a respectful and not unfriendly nature. While, as the noble Viscount protested, beating his breast, so to speak, to The Times interviewer, that he would listen to us, I am certainly not aware that this had the slightest effect on his resolution. So we have had to capitulate. As the noble Viscount said on a former occasion to your Lordships' House, we get our money from the Government; and because we think that there are even more important things at stake on which we have to protect the interests of the public, we have submitted. We are doing what the noble Viscount has ordered us to do.

But, my Lords, as I said, my purpose in rising is not to go over all that again in detail. I rather want to make a plea to the noble Viscount for some greater degree of flexibility in the system that he is imposing on us. I want still, at this late hour, to plead for greater liberty; to plead for greater flexibility in administration: and, in particular, I want to plead for permission for those boards who wish it to allow a free day in this system —one day on which the charge is not imposed. I am not asking for a general rule. I am not at all sure that all boards would wish to do so. And—may I anticipate what the noble Viscount may say in his comment?—I can easily conceive conditions in which I myself, given the fact of charges, would not be prepared to run the risks of a free day. But I am arguing simply for elbow room; I am arguing simply for some degree of discretion. I doubt whether even the noble Viscount can regard this situation as a totally outrageous one. He has often, in public and elsewhere, adduced as an argument for his policy the policy of Continental galleries, but he cannot use this argument against what I am pleading for at the moment, for the simple reason that, rightly or wrongly, some of the Continental galleries, at any rate, have precisely this safety valve. If the noble Viscount is thinking that what is good enough for the French is good enough for us, then he cannot object, on principle at any rate, to this degree of flexibility, whatever he may have to say by way of administrative convenience.

I wonder whether the noble Viscount appreciates how strong an argument on principle can be mustered in favour of this flexibility, where it is practicable. Let me concede to him what so far he has not been prepared to concede to anybody: that whether or not to charge for day-to-day enjoyment is a matter about which reasonable men may hold different views; it is not a matter of fundamental dogma. It is a question of how to pay for common enjoyment. Surely we may agree to differ about that without forfeiting mutual friendship and respect. But—and this is the point—the galleries exist to provide not only enjoyment but also education: education in the means of enjoyment; education in the means of a full life later on. While it is true that the noble Viscount is facilitating collective tours and so on, what his system cannot do is to provide for the individual who needs to be tempted to discover his own potentialities. I do not think that the noble Viscount's 10p, which is less than the price of a pint of some kinds of beer or a packet of cigarettes, is going to deter even many of the poorer people who already love the arts and value the quality of life which contact with the arts engenders, but I am sure that it will deter quite a number of persons who, on a free day, might stroll in experimentally, so to speak, and so discover the life-enhancing stimulus which this sort of interest confers. I personally do not want them to be deterred.

At the National Gallery, at least, we think that we can handle the greater crowding of one free day a week; and we believe that we could better discharge our function of bringing art to all and sundry if the noble Viscount were to allow us to do so; but hitherto he has been quite unrelenting about this. The loss to the Revenue, he thinks, would be too great. To make it good he would have to charge 20p all the year round. In a past existence I was an economist. I used to be referred to sometimes (very wrongly) as a hard-faced economist. Even now, in my old age, I am not indifferent to considerations of cost. But I confess that when I hear the noble Viscount talking in these grave tones about the orders of magnitude involved, I am reminded, if I may quote poetry in your Lordships' House, of the couplet of the poet Pope which runs: Why has not man a microscopic eye? For this plain reason: man is not a fly. The total amount that the new system is expected to yield is miniscule in relation to the national finances. Is it really the case that this minor concession for which I am pleading—I am not talking about charges in general—on the part of those galleries which think they can manage it is going to impose such a burden that, in relation to the extra happiness and education that it would involve, it must be regarded as totally insupportable? I seem to remember reading somewhere of tribes which are so poor that they buy sugar by the lump rather than by the ¼lb. Are we really so badly off as that under this Government? I repeat that I am not asking for a general rule to be laid down in this respect. What I am pleading for—and here I am sure I speak not only for the group that the noble Viscount calls the "art establishment", but for all sorts and conditions of ordinary people—is just a little more flexibility and imagination in the administration of this innovation.

May I conclude with an appeal to the noble Viscount? I am not asking him—and I am sorry that I am not—to abandon his whole policy at this moment. I am a realist in this respect: I realise that, like Macbeth, he is … in blood stepped in so far that … Returning were as tedious as go o'er. I am only asking for some sweetening of what, for many people with whom I believe he shares fundamentally many hopes and fears, is a very bitter pill to swallow—the sacrifice of a freedom we have prized and regarded as a national glory. I personally have a great admiration for what the noble Viscount has done both for learning and for culture. He helped save the British Museum and he is actively involved in imaginative schemes for developing it. I must say that it would be a very great comfort to me to be able to say to my friends: "Well, we do not agree with the policy, but we must admit that not all we have said has fallen on deaf ears and at least he has done his best to meet our more modest supplications."

5.4 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, is perfectly right when he says that this is really an enabling Bill. That is exactly what it is, and during the course of the debate this afternoon we have travelled round palaces, the Royal Opera House and the Coliseum. I see the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, sitting on the Cross Benches. I so often think of the debates we have had in this House on the film industry, which, after all, is another part of the Arts; and we have juggled round talking about the Film Finance Corporation, the question of the unions, the pool of scriptwriters and all the problems involved in trying to raise more money for the British film industry, which is potentially one of the finest industries in the world.

I spoke on this subject during the last debate on the galleries and museums, and I stated then that I personally thought it was necessary and right, on what the Paymaster General had said, to impose these charges. I must honestly say, that after hearing the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, this afternoon on the subject, talking about when he was a young man, and after what the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has said, I am severely shaken; but I wish we could come to some form of compromise either over a free day or concerning the last half-hour, as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, mentioned. I think this is important. I am certain that it is difficult to administer, but I wish the Paymaster General would have another look at this question to see whether some way can be found so that people who are really keen on seeing the collections in galleries and museums can do so completely free, even if it is only for a short period.

There are not a great many points I want to make. The Paymaster General said this afternoon that the charges will be accepted as Exchequer monies. I think this is a pity, because I feel that the Road Fund has served as a warning over many many years. But there it is: obviously the Treasury have a great say in these matters and the noble Viscount has not been able to win the day.

May I now put a few points to the Minister concerning small practical problems? Take, for example, the problem of the Victoria and Albert and the British Museums. If a scholar wishes to go to the Art Library in the Victoria and Albert, which I think is accepted generally as the finest in the world, he is issued with a pass. The library being situated in the centre of the museum, will he or she be able to wander around in other parts of the museum? It seems to me that it will be very difficult to stop this happening. I feel that this is the sort of point that should be looked into. Is it possible for the Paymaster General to give us any idea how many turnstiles will have to be erected in the bigger museums? There are many different entrances, and I think we should have an idea about these things.

Now, if I may, I should like to turn to a totally different point and say no more about the charges which, in principle, I agree with. Perhaps one of these days the Paymaster General will be able to look into the question of Somerset House and see whether or not we shall be able to get this magnificent building as a museum, which it certainly should be. If it were to be a museum, I think it would be far finer than the Louvre in Paris.

5.8 p.m.


My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, I do not intend to go over all the arguments once again. I liked the words he used: that at the end of all the arguments, when they have been deployed, we still feel that we are losing a freedom which we are all proud of. I realise that the noble Viscount, Lord. Eccles, cannot be in his place the whole time, but I am a little sorry that he is absent just at this moment because I was going to question the meaning of this Bill. It seems to me there is something extremely sinister here. The Bill says—and this is really all it says—that, … the trustees or other governing body of any of the other institutions mentioned below may make such charges for admission to any museum or gallery as they may determine. From what the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has just told us, it seems to me that this is not the intention at all. The Bill should have been worded that the governing bodies, … will make such charges as the Paymaster General for the time being shall determine", if they are not even to be allowed to make experiments concerning such things as a free day per week. This is not implied in this Bill at all, and I hope that, for this reason alone, at the Committee stage those words will be questioned and the Bill will perhaps be turned out on those words.


My Lords, I have taken a note of what the noble Lord has just said, and I will see that my noble friend Lord Eccles gets it.


My Lords, having said that, I would add that my real concern (and I know that I have said this before in this House) is for what I may call the lower-income, middle classes: the school teacher types, the junior civil servants, the married students. These are the people who are going to come off badly, yet among them are the people whom we surely want to favour most, the people who can make use of higher education and cultural opportunities. They have not had any concession from the Government, and they are not on an income level where a reduction in income tax means anything to them. The price of their food rises week by week; the cost of the fares they have to pay to go to work rises week by week. These are the people whom I am worried about and who are going to be hit by this Bill. There are also the people who pay numerous short visits, although they may be accommodated by season tickets. The sum of £1 is a great deal too much to pay for a season ticket. A season ticket should be something to show that you are a frequent visitor. You should be able to purchase a season ticket for not more than twice or, at the most, three times the cost of entering the museum.

I am somewhat influenced by the argument that abroad people have to pay to go into most—not all—galleries and museums, and that we have enormous numbers of tourists, many of whom could perfectly well afford to pay, and we are losing considerable income to the nation. We must not think of all the tourists in that sense. Many are students and are of the class that I have been describing. One of my grandsons recently hitch-hiked to Istanbul and spent six weeks abroad for less than £50. Many of the tourists who come to this country have done that and are touring cheaply. I wonder whether the noble Viscount listened to the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, in the first debate that we had on this matter, that there should be a trial period, trying other methods than the imposition of a charge. There could be a trial period where a voluntary charge might be imposed, or the raising of more funds through many kinds of methods: selling reproductions of pictures, postcards and so forth, development of the commercial side. The goal is such a small one—a target of a million pounds—from which there will be the cost of administration to be deducted, and the balance will go straight into Treasury funds. I could not follow the noble Earl, Lord Perth, who seemed to be arguing that this was a small price to pay for getting a million pounds for the museums: but we have been told in quite distinct terms by the noble Viscount that that is not where the money will go. He has told us that he is going to spend more money on museums, galleries and so on, but there is no direct relationship between paying this charge and getting a return in that way. In fact the relationship is, "If you do not pay it we shall not look after you".

My Lords, one last word. A good deal has been said about music. In the first place, it is a different matter. An artist, connoisseur or collector can give to a museum, art gallery or a nation, for all time, a work of art, a picture, sculpture or some objet d'art. But he cannot give to the nation for all time a performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, so they are not one and the same thing. In any case the main argument is that we have had this freedom in England and we are now going to lose it. Almost every home has a radio set, and you can hear great music free of charge—and even free of tax now—on the radio every day of your life.

5.14 p.m.


My Lords, I have a special interest as Chairman of the British Museum trustees, but I am speaking personally. There are about 25 trustees (I should know the exact number) who, naturally, do not all think alike. I cannot speak for any of them: each of us has an equal voice in our affairs. I am afraid that the noble Lord. Lord Strabolgi, will be disappointed: I have spoken once on this subject but have nothing of great moment to say today, though I have a few practical points to raise.

I agree with the noble Viscount that a great deal of money is required for the building and staff of the British Museum. I hope that the money will be forthcoming and wish him every success in his efforts. I personally do not see any important principle involved either way—perhaps I have not got any principles. But compared with the amounts to which reference has been made in the Government's Statement this afternoon (very large sums indeed) the amounts involved here are relatively small, and I should judge it questionable, to say the least, whether it is worth while to collect this money in view of the strong emotions aroused among many distinguished people, and of the inevitable administra tive clutter, complications and delays which are inevitable if charges are to be imposed. I have a predilection for administrative simplicity. I should have preferred it had we been able to try the system of the Metropolitan Museum, to which reference has been made by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, whereby one has to pay something, but one is asked to pay what one thinks fit. I like the variation which I believe is seriously being considered, that you should pay on your way out, when your generosity has been stimulated either by the glories that you have seen or by the fact that your feet hurt so much that you want to get out at any price.

I am glad that the charges are modest. That is important. I hope that we shall not see them doubled annually. I agree with the noble Viscount that the idea that the charges should go directly to the museums is pointless under our financial system. If that was to be, presumably the Government would cut an equivalent amount off something else. On the free day question, there are fairly good administrative reasons against this, but I have no very decided view either way. One important point is that students should get their concessionary rate on individual presentation of a recognised student's card as at the Queen's Gallery. I should be grateful if the noble Viscount could say something on this.

My noble friend Lord Robbins made a plea for flexibility and discretion. In the present circumstances I would rather say that if charges are to be imposed we may need, in the light of experience, to make some changes in all or perhaps some of the museums and galleries. I do not think it will necessarily be desirable in the future for every museum and gallery to be treated alike in every particular, since they are so different in character.

I should like to give my own view on the position of the British Museum which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. I emphasise again that this is my personal view. The Museum is not at present concerned, since the trustees are not permitted by law to charge. They have neither accepted nor rejected anything. But the trustees derive their powers from Parliament. If Parliament amends the Act in a way which clearly indicates that they want the trustees to charge, the trustees must take into account Parliament's wishes. They must then decide the question in accordance with their views about the balance of advantage to the Museum's visitors; scholars, students and the general public. I cannot anticipate their decision.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I speak here, as a non-hereditary Peer, for the hereditary section of this nation: the dispossessed, the non-possessing. I have listened to the debate this afternoon. I listened to trustees; I listened to connoisseurs, people with their own private art galleries. May I put in just a word for the mass of our people who are not students, not teachers or lecturers, who are not graduates, and who do not have their own private art galleries?

The noble Lord, Lord St. Just, was kind enough to say that he was slightly moved when he thought I said that I spoke for the poor. I do not speak for the poor in terms of money; I tried to speak for the poor in terms of dispossession. It may be that money is more easily available to people now than it was when I was young; it may be that one should multiply by a factor of four or five to obtain a true comparison. What I do know is this great city here—and the position may be even worse in East Anglia, or Nottinghamshire, or anywhere else. I speak for this great city, where there are millions of young people wandering about, not knowing, where to go. And I speak for myself. I just ended up visiting a museum. It was not because I was, in the words of one noble Lord who has just spoken, led to want to see nice things; I just ended up there. But because nobody doe's the noble Lord wish to interrupt?


I do not, my Lords.


Because, my Lords, this is a very serious matter, and if noble Lords on the other side do not understand this they will get this country into a real mess. As I was saying, I ended up in a museum. I first saw a picture, I first read something, simply because nobody got in my way. If I had been asked to go from Black-friars to the National Gallery and pay a certain sum of money to go in, I should not have gone. But, wandering around this great city, I went and I found; I began to look, began to listen and began to read.

Leave out all the nonsense about students. My children have been students. My children are now teachers, but they have become teachers because I began where I began. Many people are not there yet. Leave out that nonsense. There are still very many children in this great city who ought to find their way in, without any obstructions at all, and it is for this great hereditary class that I make my non-hereditary appeal.

What is the argument? Why do we not leave these places open? The noble Viscount is a great connoisseur of the Arts and has his own personal gallery. What is his argument? He says that he will get £1 million. Ask Mr. Barber, in relation to what he has to raise and what he is going to give away, what £1 million represents. If it is any help to the noble Viscount, I may add that I have been through this exercise. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says,"I must have x hundred and 99 million pounds and I have only x hundred and 98 million pounds. so from whom can I take the last million? We will get the noble Viscount to explain to the House of Lords that we can take it out of the museums."

The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, puts up a case for a particular kind of exemption. The noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, puts up a case for another kind of exemption. If I were on the same terms with the noble Viscount the Paymaster General as those two noble Lords are, I could put up a case for another kind of exemption. By the time the noble Viscount has accommodated all these cases for exemption, what is left? It is the barrier to the boy who might wander into a museum, and this surely is the worst thing of all. Our museums, our musical places, even Hampton Court and even Kenwood where they play music in the evenings, are all places where it is just possible somebody wanders in, somebody looks or listens, and the quality of life of that person is changed. We cannot charge for that. It cannot be evaluated. My Lords, we simply cannot put a price tag on that.

I wanted to say to your Lordships' House simply that I feel as I felt when the Labour Government would not put up the school leaving age on the day we had decided that it should be done, but postponed it. This House, like the Labour Cabinet then, is—let us face it —full of people who have had advantages. I did not like people who had been to secondary schools, grammar schools, public schools, universities, deciding that kids who had had none of those advantages could not stay at school for another year. I did not like that. I should have resigned, but I did not. I do not like being in a situation where everybody here has been able to buy these advantages since they began, but starts putting little bits of problems, little bits of obstruction, in the way of those who have never had these things and yet who might find their way into these places.

The amount involved is only £1 million to-day, minus all the exemptions that we give. It will cost more to give the exemptions, but it is an enabling Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, asked whether the figure would go up. Of course it will go up. Once give the Treasury (and I see the noble Lord, Lord Roberthall, in the House) their way in, and the figure will go up. I beg this House really not to impose these charges. Every single one of us, myself included, can walk round these places, as I often do now, and enjoy the beauties they have to offer. Many people cannot do so. I was once one of them. It is for them I speak; it is for them I appeal. It honestly is not worth it. If we want a democratic society, if we want to be able to say that we do some things which other people do not do, it is bad that we should do this. I know the constitutional position about the Opposition, but if anybody could be found to divide the House with me, I should be very willing to divide the House to-night, my Lords, on something I regard as not just retrogressive in political terms but a very, very bad thing to do.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to raise one point arising out of this Bill; I understood the Minister to say in his opening observation that if there were to be any increase in the lop basic charge it would have to be doubled to 20p because of the difficulty of having machines capable of handling two coins of different denominations. But we see in the White Paper that the proposal is that children shall he charged half-price —that is to say, 5p—and this means that the turnstiles will have to be equipped to deal with 5p pieces in large numbers. Therefore surely it would be possible in the tourist season to have a general charge not of 20p but of 15p. When I speak of tourists I am not speaking about the wealthy American tourists; I am thinking particularly of working-class tourists who come to London from the Provinces. I think they might take with a good heart an extra 5p charge, paying 15p during the tourist season instead of 10p, but I believe that people of this sort will strongly resent being expected to pay double the charge that is to be levied on people whom they regard as the prosperous Londoners throughout the whole of the other ten months of the year.

5.32 p.m.


My Lords, before the closing stage of this debate I have one suggestion to put to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. I have listened with great interest to the debate, but I cannot say that I have been able to make up my mind. I can see clearly, with the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, that it should be possible for people to enter free; I can also see very clearly with the noble Viscount that we need the money. One thing, however, surprised me. Until this afternoon I had always thought that a million pounds was a considerable sum of money. Suddenly I find that it is a"fleabite", scarcely worth squabbling over. Since, however, a squabble there is, may I put one suggestion to the noble Viscount?

We have heard that the money is to be used to house and to exhibit better the treasures that we have in our museums—something of vital importance, since it is known that we possess three times as much as is actually on view. May I also beg him to do one further thing; namely, to bring all the influence he can to bear upon the museums to make sure that what we have is preserved, restored and does not deteriorate. I ask him to do this before it is too late and before his building programme catches up with it. The noble Viscount has been roundly accused this afternoon on all sides of being autocratic. May I now beg him to be a little autocratic in this direction: that he will insist upon the preservation of our treasures—almost, perhaps, before he and his friends buy another Titian.


My Lords, may I, as an old Treasury man, beg the noble Viscount to believe that a million pounds is a very large sum.


My Lords, may I be permitted to intervene to assure the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, that at the National Gallery there are not three times the number of pictures not on view, as he seems to suppose. All the pictures at the National Gallery are on view, except those which are lent to the Provinces, to Ministers, and a few which are in the conservation studio.


And they are beautifully shown, my Lords.


My Lords, may I assure the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, that the British Museum has the best conservation laboratory in Europe?


My Lords, I was not thinking of these two distinguished museums alone. As the noble Viscount well knows, there are many museums which are not in such a fortunate position. However, I am most reassured to hear that £1 million is after all a valuable sum.

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened to every word spoken in this debate and have had ample time to ask myself whether we have lost all sense of proportion. Here we are, in the cloistered comfort of your Lordships' House, discussing a matter affecting museum and gallery charges. We are doing it in a world where we are all too conscious of great menacing problems coming at us on every side. I mentioned incidentally to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, that he must not forget that we have a million unemployed in this country, and it might be asked what we are doing this afternoon—fiddling while Rome burns? We are discussing something of very great importance indeed. I have had to ask myself that about myself and about others—the many of us who care fervently about the issues we are discussing this afternoon.

Why do we care? What is it that the Paymaster General has done to create opposition which must be unrivalled in so many different quarters? A little earlier my noble friend Lord George-Brown made a splendid contribution to this debate. It is no secret that the noble Lord and myself have not always agreed on every issue. There are Parties that have often disagreed on many issues, but we can thank the noble Viscount for the fact that we have a completely united Labour Party—Right, Left, Centre, old and young—united in our opposition to those charges. The noble Viscount must also take into consideration the fact that there is a completely united trade union movement, under Mr. Vic Feather. In Mr. Feather we have a General Secretary who, in his own person, has been deeply interested in the arts. He is not a rich man and he has not a rich man's collection, but he has a splendid collection of pictures and sculptures; the little"bits and pieces"that a poorish man has been able to pick up; and he was my close friend and ally when, for six years, I had responsibility for the Arts. So does it matter nothing to the Paymaster General that there is total opposition on behalf of the Labour Party, the trade union movement and the Co-operative Party, and that we are united, old and young? We may differ on some things, but We are absolutely united in our opposition to these charges. I wish I could speak for the Liberal Party, but I am not sure about them. I think that in the main they are with us. I should like to be able to say that we had united the Liberal Party as well as the Labour Party.

I could not help recalling, while listening to some of the arguments that have been brought forward, that we have not heard so much to-day about people not appreciating what they do not pay for. The logic of that, of course, is to charge for libraries and for schools—and historically this is not so far away. The Liberal Party has fallen on evil days, but at the beginning of the century and in my grandfather's young days it was the great, dominating Gladstone Party in Scotland. It was the Liberal Party to the"Grandee"—my grandfather; "Grandee"in a child's eyes, but not in wealth. He was a miner, victimised from pit to pit, not because he was lazy or weak but because he was trying to form a trade union movement. The Tory Party tried to stop it, as it has tried to stop progress on so many other fronts, but with the Keir Hardies and the Bob Smillies of that generation the movement went forward.

My home county in Scotland—Fife—was the first county in Scotland where the children got free books, and they got them because there was an alliance between the Liberals and the Beginnings"—the few pioneer members who, from being Gladstone Liberals were becoming the Keir Hardie Socialists. But at the beginning of the century the Tories in Scotland used precisely the same arguments that I have been hearing to-day: that if the children got something for nothing they would not appreciate it. What an extraordinary argument—something for nothing! And here to-day we have a rich man's Government; a Government that could hand back 6d. on the income tax as one of its first acts, and, as we all know, that meant not a single penny to people below the level of paying income tax, and it worked out on the good old Tory principle of "the more you have the more you get". Nobody can deny that, in terms of their priorities, this was one of the first things done by the present Government. Only the other day Mrs. Thatcher announced that she was going to give £2 million to grant-aided schools. This is another case of priorities, because we cannot chop it up and say that there is so much for education, so much for the Arts, so much for defence. We know perfectly well that the Chancellor of the Exchequer must do an addition sum, and the allocation of funds between Departments and within Departments is a matter of priorities. Sometimes, my Lords, you can understand the quality of an individual or a Government more by the small things they do than by the big things.

What pleasure does it give the Paymaster General, as a well-to-do man, to embarrass poor people—because it is an embarrassment? We are told that old-age pensioners will get in for half price. I do not know how many of your Lordships' House mean to take advantage of that principle; but straightaway, of course, we are made aware of the fact that this is a broad, crude process: it is not according to means, rich or poor. If you are very young or very old, you can go in for half price, but if you are in the middle years you have to pay the full amount. There is no sense in this.

When we think in terms of exemptions, of course the individual child ought to have no impediments put in his way; my noble friend made that point eloquently in his opening speech. Of course it is a good thing that children should be taken in groups from schools, and we know how unwilling some are to go. We have heard again talk of concern for the special ones. Is it not a rather special youngster who wants to go along on his own or with a pal? Are not we putting impediments in his way? It is so mean, so ignoble.

The question has been raised whether this is a matter of principle. I will say what I consider to be one principle involved. If we in this country cannot go forward at least do not let us go backwards. As the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, said so eloquently, free access to our great museums and galleries is a gracious thing, something that was admired and envied by many countries. Many of us have been in Rome and have seen the galleries crowded to suffocation on the free day when the natives could go in. I know the spirit in which from many parts of the House a plea has been made for a free day. As a compromise measure even that is better than nothing at all. But is it not undignified to think that our own people have to crowd in on the free day? Would it not make you feel uncomfortable that you go in when there is leisure and space because you can afford it? There is no criteria of merit or need in any of this; it is simply a brash, crude application of the kind of Tory policy that many of us had hoped belonged to the past.

After the 1914–18 War we had what was called a Government of hard-faced businessmen. We know what happened then. We remember our returning soldiers begging in the streets. But even in those awful between-war years we did not feel that we were so badly off, as apparently we are under the present Government, that we had to scrape the bottom of the barrel in this ignoble fashion. After the Second World War we had a different kind of Government. I mention that for this reason: it must not be assumed that in times of exceptional financial stress we have to cut into our cultural opportunities, because exactly the opposite is the truth. During the Second World War, when the bombs were raining on our cities, ENSA flowered and we had the best talent from the whole of the world of the arts giving its services. Men and women who were serving at home and abroad have said that they heard great music, listened to lectures, had opportunities during the War which they had never had before.

It would have been such an easy argument, and some people would have thought a very logical one, if in 1945 with our industries demolished—they had to be reassembled; blitzed homes had to be rebuilt—the Government of the day had behaved like hard faced businessmen and had said, "There is no place in our priorities for the things of the mind and the things of the spirit". But they did no such thing. Sir Stafford Cripps, who was abused so often for his austerity, found £11 million for the Festival of Britain. I have mentioned that before in your Lordships' House, and I make no apology for mentioning it again, because I think it keeps the historical perspective. Aneurin Bevan, whom you might think had enough to attend to at that time—he was both Minister of Health and Minister of Housing—nevertheless fought for the principle of local authorities being enabled to spend sixpence of the rates. Did he do it because he was indifferent to the homeless or to people without hospital beds? What hypocrisy! Governments must go forward on all fronts.

I mentioned the early years of the century, the beginning of the Labour Movement. Some of us in this House are third or fourth generation. I know that on the Government Benches there are many noble Lords who have a great feeling for tradition. I, too, have a great feeling for tradition. I feel that you are doing something intolerable to everything that not only the present generation of the Labour Movement have fought for but that our fathers and grandfathers before us fought for. They never fought for bread alone. It would have been easy for an unemployed man or a vicitimised miner walking from pit to pit to think that all that mattered was hunger or his belly or physical things. But he would never have had the stamina to fight the people who did not want the Labour Movement or the trade union movement to come into existence if he were lighting for bread alone.

Of course, the whole tradition of our Labour Movement goes back far beyond William Morris and Ruskin, back to the days of John Ball or that poor working man William Blake who has become fashionable. Let us talk about philosophy. Our philosophy is deeply based on the fact that a good Government and a good society must attend to the things of the mind and the spirit as well as to material things. In the main, noble Lords on the Government Benches have had more opportunities than most of my colleagues. Are they proud that they should be picking on the most sensitive, the poorest among us—because it does not matter if you are rich and insensitive—to do this ignoble thing?

Now I have to qualify what I have been saying. This type of measure embarrasses not only the very poor; it embarrasses some very fine people who are well-endowed with worldly goods. They feel that it is a little indecent, ungentlemanly; they are embarrassed to think that this matters nothing to them in terms of their economy. Then, to come to the practical side. I checked only this morning to make quite sure of my facts, but I thought I remembered that Mr. Hugh Leggatt had loaned the portrait of the Third Duke of Richmond to the National Picture Gallery of Scotland. He has loaned it for the past eight years. I asked for an estimate of how much it was worth, and I am told that it may be, roughly, £100,000. This picture is very interesting apart from its artistic merits, because not only was the third Duke of Richmond a great patron of the arts, but he was something more: lie was a great champion of the independence of the American Colonies. Therefore there are quite a number of American dealers who are anxious to get this picture. What kind of encouragement is there for a patron of the Arts who wants to give specifically in the great tradition that what is given—as my noble friend Lord George-Brown and some other noble Lord said—should be equally available to Duke and dustman, whoever wants it? What incentive is there to give?

Have the Government taken into consideration how much they may be losing? We shall be talking about £1 million. I do not think that the Government are going to get £1 million out of these charges. I am trying to get the Paymaster General out of his office, and need not try very hard as he will not be there much longer. But I should be very grateful if, when he comes to reply, he could give us an estimate of the cost of the turnstiles. Some of the poor, embarrassed trustees and curators are trying to put in desks instead of turnstiles, as being a little less unwelcoming. Does the noble Viscount know, for instance, that the Tate Gallery will require an extra staff of six? In fact, it has been given an extra staff of six in order to collect those odd pennies, but it possesses a lorry without a driver, so that at the moment it is not able to take pictures not in use to safe keeping away from the Gallery.

Of course the fabric of our museums and galleries is important, but the contents are more important; and the people are more important still. It is quite true, as the noble Lord, Lord Robbins. said. that some of our great national galleries have a wonderful conservation service, but it is also true that there is a great need. If the Government can afford to supply additional manpower, I can suggest better ways of using it in conservation, and on educational ways and means in our galleries. Six men are being added to the payroll of the Tate. How much is that going to cost? I am told that 14 are being added to the staff of the Victoria and Albert Museum. I am quite certain that the noble Viscount has the figures. Will he tell us how much is needed for the British Museum and the other museums? It would be very interesting if he could give us a sum. All those extra staff have to be paid to collect this ignoble money. Yes, my Lords, I said" ignoble money"; and it is ignoble money. The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, was perfectly correct when he said that, compared with the scale of a great nation's expenditure, it is a fleabite. If we had any proper sense of proportion of the true values of life, we should see that we are doing something which is not worth while.

I want to say one more thing and if I may have talked this afternoon in straight Party terms, please remember, my Lords, that for six years I never once, when I had responsibility for the Arts, made a Party speech; I never once made a political appointment. I was sometimes criticised by close friends in my own Party that I did not make Party capital out of it. That was not my philosophy. I believe that there is a field of public life which belongs to the world of consensus. There is a humanistic field, and surely this is something that your Lordships care and know about. Because you have done a good job dealing with humanistic issues such as capital punishment, homosexuality, and all sorts of issues which the other place sometimes found too hot for them to handle. In your Lordships' House such subjects were dealt with seriously by people from all quarters who had knowledge and who had compassion. I tried to extend this field to the Arts. I went to local councils, large and small, and said, "Don't make the arts a football between the two sides. Fight the barbarians on both sides. We need all the recruits we can get. "I am sure now that I could not have done my job if it had not been for the superb support I received from men and women of all Parties.

I owe a special debt to the trustees, directors, and curators of our great museums and galleries. When I was appointed in 1964 many of them were scared stiff. They believed what they had read in the papers. They believed that Members opposite represented the gentlemen's Party" about the Arts, and that a crude Socialist was coming in with thick boots to trample over their rights. But once they realised that, not just individually but as a Party, we did care, I had the most superb help. I was completely moved by the dedication and the knowledge of our trustees and directors. I cannot imagine myself being so arrogant and I am not an unduly humble person as to think that I could pit my personal judgment against the collective wisdom, experience, and advice of those to whom we had delegated the care of our museums and galleries. As the noble Viscount knows, when his fellow Trustees in the British Museum suggested that he became their chairman I at once agreed, and I had full delegated responsibility from my Prime Minister. I consulted nobody. I did it straight away, because he had been working with the Trustees and the Trustees thought that he was the right man for the job. Politics did not enter into it for me, and indeed I agreed with the suggestion because I knew that the noble Viscount cared a great deal about the British Museum. In fact, he cared so much that he took over the scheme that my right honourable friend Mr. Ted Short, as Minister of Education and Science, was able to get through the Labour Cabinet towards the end of the last Parliament. I was delighted that he did so, and that he cared so much.

What is the present relationship between political Ministers and our trustees? Are we going to have a situation in which the Arts reflect the views of the noble Viscount to-day, reflected my views yesterday, and will reflect somebody else's views to-morrow? We cannot have that; it is contrary to our entire tradition and way of working. There arc very few countries in the world that could do something so liberal and sophisticated as to have money coming from Government sources but responsibility delegated to men and women of great experience and dedication, and the judgment as to how best the money should be allocated left in their hands.

What has the noble Viscount done? He has not only antagonised the whole of the Opposition—we have never been so united on anything as on this; we could not possibly be more united and at one—he has also performed another miracle. I found that for six years there was often a great tension between the so-called "establishment" in the Arts and the "young crowd", the avant garde, the young experimental people, but they are shoulder to shoulder now from David Hockney and Bridget Riley to Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, and the noble Lords, Lord Robbins and Lord Trevelyan, too. It has been made quite clear in this House that our trustees are not co-operating willingly; they are being blackmailed. They are in a situation in which their dignity as trustees is being tampered with; in which they are being told that they do not know best, but that the political Minister, of the day knows best. What a situation when you have trustees of the eminence of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, and others here, pleading with a political Minister to give them just a little bit of freedom so that, according to the special circumstances of their institutions, they might be allowed to have even one free day.

In conclusion, may I say that I am very sad and very distressed that the noble Viscount, who could have had such a wonderful reputation and who of course means so well, should have tarnished his reputation by this mean little Bill. He has shown great courage in standing up to practically everybody who knows and cares in this very special world. But what is he being courageous about? He is being courageous about humiliating poor people—because that is what this comes down to—because some of them do not want to go in at half price, and some of them will not go in at all. Therefore, I say that I regret this very much indeed. This is a matter on which we should have had a free vote. I am no Latter Day convert to the free vote. I have always believed in it, and I believe that on certain great issues the other place was refreshed when Members could speak and vote freely. But the Government have their Whips assembled. There is not much point in voting to-night as the Government will get this measure through. The Government may think that this is a small matter, but it is not. It cuts very deep in areas that are important and I am quite sure that the Government will live to regret it deeply.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, there is one part of the speech of the noble Baroness with which I absolutely agree, her description of herself as a good Minister for the Arts. I think I have said before—and I shall go on saying it —that she was an extraordinarily successful Minister for the Arts. I am not going to be tempted to enter into the political parts of her speech, especially those that went backwards, but I understand that if you have great talent on the platform and for six years you deny yourself making any political speeches at all, it is really only fair that when you leave the other place you should be allowed to go back to those subjects which are, in their way, passionate interests.

I should like to turn to the speeches that have been made. I thought it was quite a coincidence that my noble friend Lord Aberdare should be announcing that very large sum of money, over £100 million, for the Health Service, particularly when he mentioned the mental hospitals, which of course are a part of the Health Service and which, with all their care for other people which the noble Baroness told us about, the last Government appeared unable to put right. The fact is that these are enormous sums of money; and as the Arts want enormous sums of money, so I must somehow do my best to get a slice of the cake which will enable my right honourable and noble friends in the Government to do a great many things which we think are as much in need of fresh resources as things in the Health Service or raising the school-leaving age to 16. That is really the purpose of the whole exercise, which looks very small; but then a key often looks small in comparison with the door which it may open.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asked me a number of questions. I was rather interested in what he said about free entry for 200 years to the British Museum. If my memory serves me right about the original charters of the British Museum, it is perfectly true that no-one had to pay, but the director was enjoined to admit only 10 people every three hours. That was the way, at the beginning of the British Museum, that they restrained people from coming in. But I quite agree that there is a departure from a tradition that has gone on for a very considerable time.

The noble Lord asked about old age pensioners, as did my noble friend Lord Bethel]. Of course one would like to make more exceptions, but I think this is just a matter of balanced judgment. We think it would be best to start this scheme off with the basic charge for 10 months in the year of 10p only, and half for children. If our calculations are right on the estimated number of attendances by categories—and of course there is a certain amount of doubt in the calculations—we shall get just the million, which is the figure we have set ourselves. I was asked about the cost. The gross takings would be about £1.2 million, the cost of the machines would be £55,000 for the 18 museums, and the cost of running would be 10 per cent. of the £1.2 million, or fractionally over. I cannot be absolutely sure at the present moment.

The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, asked, Could you not allow more concessions but put up the basis charge to 15p?" He also asked about the machines. The point is that a machine which handles only one coin is apparently very much easier and does not break so often as a machine which handles two coins of different sizes. So you would have one separate machine for the children and the old age pensioners, and another machine for the people who have to pay 10p. It is said by the experts that people would not want to dodge from one machine to the other, which they would have to do if they were paying 15p. I am afraid that this is rather a technical matter, but I have gone into it quite carefully and I am advised that I cannot really recommend anything between 10p and 20p.


My Lords, my plea was for a 15p charge during the tourist season, leaving the 10p charge for the other 10 months.


My Lords, I quite understand the noble Lord's point, but if we had a 15p charge at any season we should have to have machines all the year round to deal with it. Several noble Lords raised the matter of children not in parties. Of course some children are "carried in arms", which I understand is the technical term, and I believe that means children under the age of 3. Of course they will be allowed in free, just as they are allowed to travel free on British Railways. But as regards children over that age, it does not appear to those whom we have consulted that there are many children nowadays who do not have pocket money. We have looked at this aspect and this is the difference between the childhood of the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown—and the time when I, too, was a child—and the present day. I do not know what was the average pocket money then, but we are now told that children between the ages of 0 and 15 have £125 million a year, £24 million of which they spend on sweets. Furthermore, the state of the toy industry is strikingly different from when the noble Lord and I were children. Last year £190 million was spent by parents on toys. All I am saying is that I think it would be wrong to imagine that children to-day have the same very small amount of pocket money a week, or none at all, as happened before the war.


My Lords, I do not want to go into the difference between the noble Viscount's childhood and mine, but did he say that up to 3 they are regarded as being babies in arms? I shall be very surprised if that is true, but I just want to get it quite clear that that is what he said so that the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, can operate on that basis. Did he also say that when they are no longer babies in arms, and are between the ages of 3 and 15, they have £125 million a year to spend? Is that what the noble Viscount is saying?


My Lords, I said between 0 and 15.


Between 0 and 15? There must be less between 0 and 3. How much between 3 and 15? It is absolute rubbish!


I think it is not rubbish. The noble Lord, if he likes, can check what I think are called the household budget statistics, where he will find these things. I am merely making the point that it is not the case that children are now so poor; and if you go to the Science Museum, where the child proportion of the total number of visitors is the highest, and talk to the people there, you hear some very interesting things about the children and what they have to spend.

On the disabled, my Lords, I ought to have reported to your Lordships' House that I told the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, that we had difficulties in defining a disabled person, but that if that disabled person were in a chair then of course the attendant would be exempt, so that there would be only one instead of the two entrance charges to pay.


My Lords, have I got that quite clear? The noble Viscount would exempt whoever might be wheeling the chair, but not the cripple?


Or the other way round. It could be the other way round: nothing for the cripple and—


Why not both?


It is thought it might then be abused to some extent. My noble friend Lord Perth made the very interesting suggestion that during the last half hour the public should be admitted free. I think that that point would need consideration. I do not know what the attendants would say about that, but, anyhow, it could be one of the matters looked at after the charges have been established for a certain time. I think I could tell my noble friend that, in my own view, if we ever can make a concession there I am rather in favour of a free period in the dead of winter, because when one looks at the graph of the attendances one sees how extraordinarily similar it is in all those places, and how in the very dead of winter—let us say between Christmas and the middle of January, or even between Christmas and the end of January—it falls right off.


My Lords, I have been pondering what the noble Viscount has just said about when a cripple is being pushed by an attendant. How can he possibly justify charging an attendant who is rendering the cripple a service?


I do not know, but I believe there are various precedents. I will look into that point again, my Lords. My noble friend Lord Bethell said that he might lose his season ticket, and he asked whether he could then sign a book, as at the M.C.C. The M.C.C. is a very limited club, and I have no doubt that my noble friend is well recognised on arrival at the M.C.C. But it would be rather different, I think, at one of the national galleries; and I expect that if he does not have his season ticket he will find that he will have to pay the ordinary charge.

Coming now to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, I should like to give him the flexibility that he asked for, but in regard to the National Gallery I am in some confusion. He says that the Trustees of the National Gallery would very much favour a free day; in other words, that they are not apprehensive about overcrowding. But we have recently had a survey made by the Department of Education called Museums in Education, drawn up by, I think, Her Majesty's Inspectors, and this is what they say about the National Gallery at the present time: The Gallery gives every encouragement to schools which show an interest in visiting. One such a policy is a booklet", and it goes on to describe the booklet. It continues: However, with an average daily attendance of 5,000 from October to Easter, rising to between 10,000 and 20,000 in spring and summer, there is reluctance to undertake any additional publicity which might result in such overcrowding as to diminish the pleasure of visitors. I asked about that statement, and what it means, of course, is that the National Gallery feel they have enough schoolchildren at the present time in the summer. This is what they told the inspectors. I want many more schoolchildren to go, and I have no doubt that if we do our publicity well, and if the museums have more space than they have now for giving instruction to teachers as to how best to take children round museums, we shall get a very large increase; and that is exactly why the National Gallery even now, with no question of there being the bunching up on a free day, do not want any more publicity for schoolchildren. I think that when this is what they tell us in this matter, we should be very careful before saying that a free day can be safely introduced.

I think, my Lords, this is where I really differ from the average trustee and, I believe, from quite a number of noble Lords on the other side. I am absolutely convinced that if we stimulate the demand to go to museums, if we produce or write literature, if we get on television the right help, we are going to see a very large increase in the attendance. After all, it takes a long time for a change in teaching in the maintained schools to come through in the adult population, as in the case, for example, of a change in taste or a different level of information. This is now beginning to happen; and, as we all want to stimulate it still more, we cannot wait for the overcrowding; we cannot wait until there have been semi-scandals. We surely ought to prepare for this now. I am quite prepared to talk to the Trustees on this matter, but I seriously doubt whether they would be wise to take the view that there should be a free day at the National Gallery. Of course, one would not dare risk it except in the middle of the week, and then one comes up against the objections which the noble Baroness, Lady Lee, has pointed out; that not everybody really wants a free day.

I know that the noble;Lord, Lord Robbins, is one of those who say, more or less,"The money is so little; why do you worry about it?"My noble friend Lord Amory gave him the right answer. It is not very much money compared to what we need. I have just been looking, at this season of the year, at the Estimates which I should like to get through. It is not very much money, and no doubt I shall get what I want; but it is something that will help when all these other claims for domestic expenditure of one kind or another have to be put one against the other; and, unpopular though it is, I believe that I shall do better this way than by giving in.


My Lords, I just want to get the Record straight. I do not wish to enter into an argument at this stage as to whether a million pounds is or is not a large sum of money. I made my remark in relation to the reduction in the net revenue which would arise from the introduction of a free day at the National Gallery.


My Lords, I can give the noble Lord the figures for that, if he likes. There is an estimate going round, given by Mr. Hugh Leggatt, which is not accurate. It may be that this has been drawn to the noble Lord's attention. The present estimate of the amount of money which the National Gallery collects in a year is £150,000. I suppose that if we had a free day, and assuming that one-fifth of the total weekly attendance will go on that free day, it means (and this is being very favourable to Lord Robbins) that the amount we should lose is £30,000. But as a result of free days we might have to raise the basic charge, because I am not prepared to see it happening in one museum and not in another to start with. We have of course other museums and more forward-looking ideas of the increase in the attendances. We might lose one-fifth of £1 million; that is, £200,000 a year. It is that which I cannot do and keep charges down to 10p. I think that is worth it. It may prove not to be worth it in a few years' time, but it is worth it in starting the scheme.

My noble friend Lord St. Just also wanted a free day. I took notice of that. Any reader in the Library in the British Museum while still in the British Museum will get a benefit, in that he will be able to wander round the Museum without having paid an entrance fee. I could not ask them to pay just to go down the passage. The noble Lord asked how many turnstiles. I am afraid I cannot tell him precisely. We think the total cost will be £55,000 for the machines and the erection. The noble Lord, Lord Platt wanted a change in the wording of the Bill. That would be unusual but I am quite willing to consider it. I should say to him and to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, that I have never been influenced by what happens in any foreign country. I do not care what they do in France, Germany or Italy. What we are doing here is I think in the best interests of the British museum service. I think I have never been found to quote an example from overseas.

The noble Lord, Lord Platt, also suggested the voluntary charge, but my noble friend Lord Perth dealt with that. I hardly think the voluntary collection. either on going in or on going out, would really suit the British public. I do not think they are quite like the American public. I am very doubtful whether, if you said that you ought to get £25,000, it would work. I was grateful for what Lord Trevelyan said and, as always, we will try to work with the Trustees of the British Museum.

Lord George-Brown spoke about the very poor people. He did not come when I was speaking before and he is not here when I am speaking now, but perhaps I may be allowed to refer to him. What interested me was that it is precisely these people who are not now museum-goers and who have perhaps lost out a bit in education whom I wish to attract; and they will not be attracted in very great numbers until the museums are enlarged to take care of them. You need all kinds of devices, such as particular rooms where you can have a discussion and where they can go and handle objects and that kind of thing. It is because our museums are not capable at the present time of handling large numbers of exactly the sort of people that Lord George-Brown cares about—and so do I—that I want a big programme of expansion, if we can get it. Lord Birkett said that the Bill should pay attention to preservation. That is very necessary outside London. Most of the great galleries in London have admirable conservation departments, but it is not so in the Provinces.

My Lords, I hope that I have answered the questions that have been asked of me. I realise that this is a very hard thing to take for those who are accustomed to free entry and who think it is a great liberty. I think that what I am asking the House to consider is how much do we want to put the museums in a much better order, and have we really begun to make them what they should be if everybody—particularly those whose education begins and ends in our maintained schools—is to have a reasonable chance of going in and, when he gets there, of getting the amenities and information and so on. We have a tremendous way to go before that is possible. I should like to give it a small start, and this Bill is designed for that purpose. I commend it to the House.

On Question. Bill read 2ª and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.