HL Deb 31 July 1972 vol 334 cc6-7

2.51 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government, in view of the attraction of our free galleries and museums to visitors from abroad, whether they will consider imposing a surcharge of say 6p on the hotel bills representing the 40 million "hotel nights" spent each year in Great Britain by visitors from abroad, thereby raising say £2 million a year, to be earmarked for the maintenance of tourist attractions; and abandoning their policy to raise £1 million a year by admission charges to British residents on top of what they already contribute to galleries and museums through taxation.


My Lords, very large numbers of overseas visitors come to our national museums and galleries and they will contribute substantially to the sums that will be collected. The tourist attractions to which the noble Lord refers include many places other than museums and galleries; for example, the Tower, Hampton Court and Stonehenge, for admission to which charges have long been made. The Government do not regard a scheme of the type suggested as either practicable or desirable.


My Lords, I am obliged to the Minister for that reply. However, does not this proposed scheme at any rate have the advantage of avoiding battles between the Government and the Trustees on the sore topic of free days?


My Lords, I think it is a very large hammer to take to a very small nut. What the noble Lord is asking is really discriminatory taxation against foreigners, and I should have thought that that was very illiberal. On the other point, we are getting on quite well.


My Lords, arising out of the supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, may I ask the Minister whether the stories in the Press are true; namely, that the Government are now considering granting a free day, so that those who will not be able to go to the museums after charges have been introduced will continue to enjoy the advantage of doing so?


My Lords, that is another question, and I have nothing to add to the answer that I gave to the noble Lord last week.