§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Lord STRATHCONA and MOUNT ROYAL rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what use is being made by the National Health Service of the David Salomons Science Theatre and its organ at Southborough in Kent, and whether this theatre might appropriately be used to house the British Piano Museum. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is a regrettably late hour to embark on asking a Question which I hope will prove to be of slightly wider interest than might be deduced from the wording of the Question on the Order Paper. May I start by saying that I recognise this is no time to be adding to the tribulations of the Health Service; that is certainly not the purpose of this Question. Indeed, I 1039 intend to suggest that there are ways by which they might make some modest economies. The Question I want to ask is whether public money is being squandered, a national asset damaged and an opportunity lost, and I hope to suggest that there is, as the Prayer Book puts it, "a happy issue out of our afflictions".
§ Perhaps I may begin with a brief look at the origin of the rather strangely named Science Theatre at Broomhill House near Southborough in Kent. The building was erected by Sir David Salomons, who inherited his baronetcy from his uncle who had the distinction of being the first Jewish Lord Mayor of London and the first Jewish Member of Parliament. I am glad to see the noble Lord, Jord Janner, is on the list of speakers this evening; he may be referring to this point. I understand that the bench on which this distinguished man sat during a very brief initial visit to the House of Commons is still in Broomhill House at the present time.
David Salomons described himself by saying, "I was born a mechanic". He must have been an exceptionally good mechanic, and was quite a bit more than that, because in 1896 he designed and had built his Science Theatre, which was not only fully equipped with the unusual feature at that time of a complete electric lighting system, of his own design, but powered by a specially installed generator, also of his own design; he had, too, in this Theatre, stage equipment which was said to rival the Drury Lane of the time. Then in 1914 he had installed in this Theatre a magnificent Welte reproducing organ—and a very fine instrument it is indeed. The company which makes these organs unfortunately was destroyed by bombs during the Second World War, thus leaving this as the largest surviving organ of its type anywhere. I am not relying on my own personal judgment of this Theatre, but I call in aid a letter from Sir Hugh Casson in March this year. Sir High said:
The Science Theatre seems to me to be an unusual room of outstanding interest, not only in the consistency and quality and condition of interior finishes, but in its extraordinary collection of fixtures—a fine organ, complete period scenery and theatrical machinery, and not least a virtually untouched electrical power and light system which must be one of the earliest known
of this country. It seems to me essential that it should all be preserved as intact as possible, i.e., no false ceiling, wall linings, etc.
In a letter I received from Sir Hugh this morning he reiterated this view. He says:
I regard the Victorian Theatre at this house as of the greatest interest scientifically and it seems to me tragic that it should be allowed to lie abandoned or be converted into a lecture hall.
That is the opinion of Sir Hugh Casson.
Sir David died in the 1920s. In 1937 his daughter made over the estate to the people of Kent, subject to a covenant that it should be used
as a technical institute, college, library, museum, memorial hall, institute of scientific research or public park, or as a convalescent home or hospital".
The covenant went on to produce a condition that two rooms of the main house, the memento rooms, should be open to the public on at least three days a week. There were various other controlling features of that kind.
§ The Kent County Council accordingly took the building over and used it as a convalescent home throughout the Second World War, and as such it was taken over by the Ministry of Health in 1946 when the National Health Service was founded. The convalescent home was then closed in 1971,since the Department no longer needed it for that purpose. It was then announced that it would be converted for use as a training centre for cooks. In fact the house has now been converted for use as a training centre for the 60.000 administrative staff for the South-East Thames Regional Health Service. At this point I think I should emphasise that while the Science Theatre and the ancillary buildings adjoin the house, they are in fact, or can be, completely separated from it; so you can regard them as two quite separate entities if you wish; or equally you can regard them as one entity. But for this purpose I distinguish between these two sets of buildings.
§ As I understand it, the plans for the conversion of the Science Theatre itself are more or less in abeyance on the grounds of cost. Unfortunately, it seems that already some of the interesting original electrical fittings and some of the scenery have been taken down, but I think it is largely thanks to the attention which has been called to the Science 1041 Theatre by outside interests that these fittings have, I understand, been stored. The first question I should like to ask the noble Lord this evening is: can he please give us an unqualified assurance that these fittings will be carefully stored and looked after? I have been astonished by the number of letters that I have had since putting down this Question, many of them protesting at what has already been done in the Theatre and hoping that nothing further will be allowed to proceed in the way of what they describe as desecration. It is only fair to say that I understand that a great deal of care has been taken in looking after these fittings and fixtures since their importance was called to the attention of the Department. The kind of assurance that we are seeking is the first minimum that is needed to alleviate a considerable amount of local worry and national misgiving which has been expressed to me.
§ A number of other questions arise. Bearing in mind that this building is a separate entity, is it really necessary to the training centre? With the best will in the world, it is hard to avoid the feeling that we have here a classic case of Parkinson's law in operation. The building was there, so, naturally, the authority in possession of it looked around to find a justification for using it. That is fine up to that point, but of course that usually means keeping it to themselves. In fairness again, I think perhaps this view has undergone some modification in recent months since something of a local outcry has been raised. But I think it is right to ask how much will it cost the authority to adopt the Theatre, how much will it cost to run the Theatre, and how often will it be used thereafter? And do they really need a theatre that seats 200 people when they already have within the main building a room capable of seating 130 people? if all these questions are answered satisfactorily, will the building be available for use by the public? It has been suggested to me that it might he used for some of the functions which the Health Service currently undertake at their premises in Croydon, but I do not really believe that they would seek to justify having the Theatre for a purpose of this kind.
§ I would ask another question. Would not the use of this building as a museum 1042 or for some other public purpose tie in well with the obligation to open the two rooms in the house to the public under the covenant? I can readily see that this is something of a nuisance, but it is something of a nuisance which already exists; these rooms have to be opened.
§ Having asked these rather specific questions, I am motivated to ask one or two rather more wide-ranging ones of a more fundamental nature. I speak as a devotee of the notion of the need for training to improve the effectiveness and administrative efficiency of almost any service, and perhaps the Health Service in particular. But one cannot help wondering whether this whole establishment will really be cost effective. Do we really need an establishment on this scale for the South-East Regional Authority, which has 60,000 people? How many other regions feel the requirement for facilities of the same sort? My understanding is that at least some of the regions prefer to use universities for this purpose. in short, I hope it is not unfair to ask whether the South-East Thames region have Rolls-Royce ideas on a Ford income. That is the present use, the first half of the Question.
§ Now may I turn to the Piano Museum itself. At the present time, there is a unique collection of reproducing pianos and other musical instruments housed in Brentford in a disused church with a leaking roof. This collection is the life's work of its founder Mr. Frank Holland, whose great contribution has been to restore all his instruments to working order and use them for giving concerts to the public. At risk of personalising this debate unduly, I would say that Mr. Holland is one of those admirable individuals of remarkable single-mindedness of purpose. I have no doubt that this particular characteristic probably makes him a thorn in the side of bureaucrats; I dare say there is a file in a number of Ministries in this country with large red stickers on them saying: "If Mr. Holland writes to you, for goodness sake watch out because you are probably in trouble".
§ It is precisely these kind of people who succeed in achieving the difficult and indeed the well nigh impossible. So let us not be blinded by the single-mindedness of one individual. I can only say that even in these days of the remarkable hi-fi reproductions, it is to me a very moving 1043 experience to go into this Museum—which, frankly, I can only describe as scruffy at the present time, for reasons not anything to do with the efforts of the curator—and listen to actual instruments playing actual performances by the great names of the day, names like Rachmaninoff and Rubinstein, on the very instrument itself. The link with the Science Theatre came about because Mr. Holland tracked down the magnificent and unique Welte organ which he found in the back of the Theatre complete with its player rolls.
§ I suggest that the Piano Museum's first claim to special consideration in connection with the Science Theatre is the fact that they called public attention to it, and this probably prevented irreparable desecration of a building which is part of our national heritage. Secondly, the Museum has the facilities and the intention to restore this magnificent organ as part of its exhibition and give public performances on it. Indeed, it intends to go further if it can get into this building, and would like to restore and put into use the historic electrical installation. Above all, the Museum desperately needs a home with a tight roof and it is indeed hard to imagine a more appropriate building than this.
§ I should like to go further and suggest that such a use would be much more closely in line with the wishes of the family who so generously gave the building to the people of Kent in the first place. In this connection I have had letters from a large number of descendents of Sir David Salomons writing enthusiastically on this very point. They are supported by the South-East Regional Arts Association, the Southborough Society, the Museums Association, a whole list of supporters who have expressed an interest in this project. I am not suggesting that the health authority was ultra vires in taking over the building, but I am certainly suggesting that there seems a strong moral case in terms of fulfilling the wishes of the original donor for an enterprise of this kind.
§ The next question to ask is: Supposing the Piano Museum went to the Science Theatre, how would it be supported? The founder of the Museum is completely confident that he could support his collection and maintain this fascinating build- 1044 ing by means of the contributions from visitors and the income from the concerts which they could give with the greatly improved museum facilities as compared with the disused church. I have already explained that it is my understanding that they enjoy a great deal of local support. Surely an outcome of this kind would suit the health authority in their present straitened circumstances. They would be relieved of the obligation to look after the Theatre, and indeed if the public were admitted frequently to the grounds around the house—there seems no good reason why they should not be—it would surely be reasonable for the health authority to look for some support from the local authority in looking after what would be a local amenity. This is what led me at the outset to suggest that there appears to be a happy solution which could suit everyone.
I have tried to be fair in putting the case which lay behind this Question. I recognise and freely admit to an emotional and perhaps a romantic bias in the outcome which I should like to see. Again, if I may call in aid Sir Hugh Casson's letter this morning:
I am convinced of the uniqueness of Mr. Holland's collection, and I am glad that you also share my confidence in his persistent energy in trying to find a new home for it.
The question is, does the National Health Service need this historic building, because many people feel that it is a pity that in a time of national stringency public money is being used to alter to its detriment a building which they feel should be preserved and made available to the public according to the manifest wishes of the benefactor who gave it to the people of Kent. In the meantime, there is waiting in the wings, if I may put it that way, a potential occupant and a curator whose valuable collection is looking for a good home. I have asked a number of questions, and I shall look forward to hearing what the noble Lord can tell us.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Lord COTTESLOE
My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words, although it is hardly necessary to add anything in view of the full, fascinating and fair—I thought perhaps almost more than fair—statement that my noble friend Lord Strathcona has just given us of what I regard as the quite deplorable history of this matter. The terms of the 1045 Trust Deed under which Broomhill is held are perfectly clear. My noble friend gave them to the House. I will repeat them because I think they are of extreme importance. It is held in trust for the people of Kent to be usedas a technical institute, college, library, museum, memorial hall, institute for scientific research, or public park, or as a convalescent home or hospital.and not for any other purpose.
Of course, until 1971 Broomhill was used at first by the Kent County Council and then, on the institution of the National Health Service, by the Ministry of Health as a convalescent home. When however, the convalescent home was closed in 1971, the Department of Health, with what I am afraid I can only call a cynical disregard of the terms of the Trust, instead of returning it to the Kent County Council, as they should have done, so that it might be used in accordance with the terms of the Trust, proposed to convert Broomhill into a conference or training centre for hospital cooks: nothing to do with the terms of the Trust. Attempts at various levels to get the Regional Health Authority—I know what difficulties Regional Health Authorities can be faced with; I have been chairman of a Regional Hospital Board—to get them to release it for the specified purposes have so far failed.
I am concerned today not with the mansion or the estate, and I can well understand that it might not be easy to make arrangements for their use in accordance with the strict terms of the Trust. I do not know what attempts may have been made to consider that. I am concerned today only with the Science Theatre built by Sir David Salomons in 1896 for the specific purpose of housing a comprehensive collection of theatrical, electrical and projection equipment, a purpose for which it is, as I am advised, almost ideally suited.
The collection has been neglected for 40 years. The stage scenery and the highly interesting electrical theatrical thunder machine has gone, destroyed by neglect and a lack of understanding, but the remarkable Welte reproducing pipe organ, installed in 1914, much the finest if not the only surviving specimen of its kind—an organ of extreme historical and musical interest—survives, though in a dirty and neglected state. Proposals by 1046 the Regional Health Authority to incarcerate this remarkable object by bricking it in—it is difficult to believe that such proposals could seriously have been put forward—have been defeated. Many of the unique fittings have been rescued from the rubbish dump to which vandals—I suppose one can use that term—had consigned them. I understand that it could be renovated without great difficulty.
Whatever may be the future of the mansion, it really cannot be doubted or disputed that the Science Theatre, with its wonderful and historic organ, should be returned to the use for which it was intended and for which the Trust provides. I am advised that there would be no difficulty in dividing it from the mansion and providing a separate access. It is ideally situated, by its design and its whole history, to be used to house the musical Museum, to which the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, referred, at present housed in a church at Brentford which is about to be demolished; the museum is willing and anxious to go to the Science Theatre at Broomhill. I profoundly hope that the Minister will be able to say that the Broomhill Science Museum will be made available for that purpose.
§ 8.32 p.m.
My Lords, I hesitate to intervene at this late hour, particularly in view of the manner in which the case has been presented, which is not unusual, by the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, and by the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe. By this time the Minister will appreciate that there is a strong case for the appeal that has been made to him tonight. I am placed in a somewhat different position from perhaps any other Member of this House or, for that matter, of another place. Sir David Salomons, whose memory is well worth preserving in a substantial way—and this should weigh very heavily in favour of the suggestion that has been made tonight—was the first Jewish Lord Mayor of London. He played a very prominent part in the campaign to abolish the last Jewish disabilities. He was elected sheriff and later alderman on special legislation being passed. I speak as a Jew, which perhaps reflects the respect I feel in a personal capacity for this predecessor of mine.
1047 He was elected to Parliament in 1851 and at that time the Oath which a Member had to take could not be taken by a conforming Jew; there were, of course, Jews in Parliament before that date—Disraeli and others—but I am speaking tonight about members of the Jewish faith and nation who would not take an Oath which was inconsistent with their beliefs. He sat in the House, being the first Jew to sit in Parliament, and he voted, but unhappily he had to withdraw and a heavy fine was inflicted on him for having sat in the House and voted. In 1858 an Amendment to the law was passed enabling Jews to sit in Parliament; he was re-elected in 1859 and sat until the day of his death as a Member of Parliament, being particularly interested in social problems and Jewish welfare. Had it not been for his activities, it is quite possible that neither I nor any other Jewish person would have been able to come into either House, and therefore I have a very high regard for this predecessor of mine.
This high regard is not only in Parliamentary terms. It goes beyond that because David Salomons was active on the Jewish Board of Deputies, which is the representative body of Jewry in this country. He was president of that body on two occasions—having taken the place of Sir Moses Montefiore, whose name is very well known—and I had the privilege of serving for nine years as president of that Board and I have been on it for some 50 years. Your Lordships will, therefore, appreciate my personal interest in this man, who is well remembered, not only in this country but throughout the world, as a pioneer of Jewish relief from the difficulties that prevailed before he stepped into the scene. It is true that Lionel Rothschild had been elected earlier. but he would not take his seat in the House and instead stood at the Bar.
This Trust Deed is of interest to me and I hope that my noble friend will give it considerable weight in his consideration of this matter. Although this point has been raised already, it is interesting to note that that Trust Deed was made between one of the relatives of Sir David and—being a party to the deed—the Board of Guardians and 1048 Trustees for the Relief of the Jewish Poor. Again, I must declare an interest, in that although that body is now known as the Jewish Welfare Board, it was situated in the first constituency which 1 had the honour to represent as a Member of Parliament; that is, White chapel and St. George's, which is not there now but which was at that time. I appeal to my noble friend not easily to ignore this Trust Deed. Whatever may be the result of tonight's debate, I hope he will take into consideration the fact that whatever other use these magnificent premises are put to—after all, they were recognised then as being, whatever term was used, an ancient monument and stand as such to this day—they should be used, partly anyway, for the purposes for which the Trust called on them to be used. I am a lawyer and we lawyers understand that when a trust is formed, our clients are anxious to see that provision is made to ensure that a place like this is used in the manner in which they would desire it to be used.
There are the relatives—and I believe that this should be taken into consideration—who are very concerned about what is happening. The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, referred to letters he had received and he sent me a copy of one—or indeed it may be the original. I think it would be useful to place on record the kind of thing which has been said. I shall just quote therefore from one or two:Yesterday my husband and I took a walk to look at the 'Salomons' House' in Broomhill. We were appalled at the desecration that is taking place. Having worked many years for the NHS the callousness and insensitivity of such a scheme does not surprise me. How can such an amount of money be spent on destroying something belonging to Kent residents? My son was born here and owns part of that heritage. I see you are asking a question re 'the house' on Wednesday.Your Lordships will see that the letter speaks in strong terms, much stronger terms than any of us has used because we have some respect for the Minister and we appreciate the difficulties which the Ministry encounters. I suppose we shall have an answer from the Minister as I am sure he is a reasonable person and, if it does not entirely satisfy us, perhaps it will show that there is a need for what he is asking. I hope he will take into consideration what we are saving because it is not a question of asking for the whole 1049 place it is a question of asking for something of a heritage in the place itself. The letter continues:Is there any hope of stopping the crass stupidity and wanton destruction? I am engaged on writing a report for the Royal Commissionand she has appealed to Mr. Holland, who has been referred to and who is the type of person who is enthusiastic and is prepared to spend a considerable amount of time in pursuit of an objective which he feels at heart to be very important.
Those of us who have been in public life all know very well that the only method by which very much of our legislation has been achieved is by some fellow who has been fanatically enthusiastic—or perhaps I should not say "fanatically" but "very". I had the same experience many years ago with a man called Dan Ryder in respect of the Rent Acts. He kept on and on and eventually he managed to get the original Rent Act through. That is the kind of person we are dealing with.
I have other letters, but I do not think it necessary to read them tonight. As I said before, it is late, but I should like to make some comments which may help the Minister. First, I think that when one is dealing with an ancient building and one that has been regarded as in use, when the building itself is preserved one cannot help but do something inside. We must not talk only about the building. Take the Charing Cross Hospital, for example. That is a building which has been preserved but which could not continue in its original use. We can understand that. It may be that parts of the building to which we are referring ought to be used for a different purpose. I do not believe any of us would deny that, but one must preserve not only the building but something of the character of the institution. Here, one has an opportunity of bringing into the building something which people will want to see and use.
I believe, speaking as a Jew, that it would be a very great attraction for a large number of Jewish people—not only from this country—to go to a place which had this particular background. I am sure that the same would apply to Parliamentarians throughout the world. After all, it was a big advance in the freedom of the individual when a man 1050 like David Salomons by his efforts, together with the Board of Deputies achieved something which helped a portion of the people of the land to play their part in the affairs of the community as a whole. I believe that this kind of thing could attract a large number of tourists. In addition, the objective which Frank Holland has in mind would also attract people—people who are interested in the organ, in music, in pianos. Concerts could be held and there is no earthly reason why they should not be held in the gardens. Look at the fine example of places such as Glyndebourne where musical and classical events are held. This could well develop into something where what the Ministry want would not he interfered with, if it did not insist on having what it has in mind at present.
So I say with all due respect, and realising the difficulties in the way of the Minister, that I feel he would be rendering a considerable service to us all if he would agree to allow part of the building to be used. I cannot feel that a covenant like this, which says that a notice is to be placed on the wall showing the hours when the building is to be open to the public, can be wiped out, though of course there could be legislation—I suppose we could all be hanged if Parliament said we should be, quite irrespective of whether or not we deserved it. However, we have here a case where the trust deed itself indicates that it must continue. Something which is significant must continue. It is on that ground that I appeal to the Minister, if he has not yet made up his mind, to do something to help in the matter which has been so very well raised by the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Lord WELLS-PESTELL
My Lords, I want to make it perfectly clear at the beginning that, although I know that what I have to say will not please noble Lords who have spoken, I hope it will be clearly understood that the DHSS is not unsympathetic to what noble Lords have said or have in mind. I wish to remind your Lordships that this matter has engaged the attention of the DHSS for some considerable time. It has been raised on more than one occasion in another place. A Petition has been presented in another place, where my right honourable friend the Secretary of State 1051 has also put the point of view of the DHSS.
I wish to remind your Lordships that in 1948 the property was transferred to and invested in the then Minister of Health—now the Secretary of State for Social Services—by virtue of Section 6(2) of the National Health Service Act 1946. Under Section 6(4) of that Act transferred property was vested in the Minister free of any trust existing immediately before the appointed day, 5th July 1948. I mention that because a number of emotive words and expressions have been used this evening. I hope that I am not doing anyone an injustice when I say that there has been an underlying suggestion that the action taken by the DHSS has been improper in view of the terms of the Trust.
My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend for a moment? No one is suggesting for one moment that it was not within the power of the Ministry. What we are asking for is something rather different. The question of whether the power ought not to have been given is not for us or the Minister to consider now. I am not blaming him for that. But we are hoping that he will lend a sympathetic ear and let us have a part of this place.
§ Lord WELLS-PESTELL
My Lords. I was not referring to my noble friend Lord Janner. I was really referring to the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe. I am not going to give way any more. Let me say this—
§ Lord COTTESLOE
My Lords, I should like to make it quite clear that I was not suggesting that it was improper. I suggested that, notwithstanding that there is no illegality, some regard should be had to the terms of the Trust.
§ Lord WELLS-PESTELL
My Lords, I think that I can satisfy the noble Lord on that point in due course. By virtue of the section which I quoted, as extended by Section 53(3) of the National Health Service Reorganisation Act 1973—which both noble Lords voted in favour of at the appropriate time—my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is empowered to use such property for the purpose of 1052 any of her functions under the National Health Service Acts, subject to an obligation to secure, so far as practicable, that the objects for which any such property was used immediately before the appointed day are not prejudiced thereby. On transfer to the National Health Service in 1948 the property was administered by the South East Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board which continued its use as a convalescent home until its closure on 31st March 1972.
No noble Lord has mentioned the Report of the Parliamentary Commissioner on this matter. I only hope that noble Lords who have spoken have read it, and I am obliged to say that there is some doubt in my mind as to whether noble Lords have in fact done so. In case they have not, may I point out that the Report says:In my opinion it is reasonably clear and beyond any real doubt that the proposed use of David Salomons' house as a training school for hospital staff will not be a breach of that stipulation.The Parliamentary Commissioner went into this very carefully, and, as I say, he came to the conclusion that there had been no breach of the terms of the Trust Deed.
The South East Thames Regional Health Authority, which is the successor authority to the South East Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board, is now using the house as a centre for a national training scheme for senior catering staff; and to provide regional training facilities for nurses, paramedical staff, administrators, pharmacists, architects, engineers, domestic staff, and all who need training in management.
Noble Lords opposite will know that, under the National Health Service Reorganisation Act 1973, there is an obligation on Regional Health Authorities to provide management training for certain groups within the National Health Service. The South East Thames Regional Health Authority—as the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, quite rightly says—employs about 60,000 people. They are not all employed in management roles, but about 8,000 of them qualify for training for various managerial functions and there is an obligation on that RHA to provide adequate training for them. At present there are two lecture rooms. The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount 1053 Royal, said that one would seat 130 people. But training cannot be done on that basis. It can be done only in small groups.
The result is that the RHA can probably now take to train at the very most 60 or 70 people. As the noble Lord probably knows, the RHA has built two houses, which provide about 70 single rooms for those in residential training. The noble Lord may have seen those houses when he went down there. There is no getting away from the fact that the Regional Health Authority has a very ideal and satisfactory training centre. The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, went so far as to suggest that money might well be squandered. However, I must say that it is often necessary to gather at fairly regular intervals large groups of people for training purposes. Training these days, in a developing, reorganised National Health Service cannot be left at the management levels. We have toprovide—and this is certainly the intention of some RHAs—regular discussions with perhaps family doctors in the area, with other administrators, with other people who are working on the periphery of the National Health Service. Perhaps the noble Lord has not looked up David Salomons House on a map, although I know he has been there. This particular place is almost the dead centre of the South East Thames Regional Health Authority area. There could be no better place. The RHA need a conference hall where it can take 200 or 250 people not once a year, but several times a year.
There is no better place, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, must agree, than this particular Science Theatre. If we have to provide—and we would have to—alternative conference facilities, it would cost us something in the region of £300,000. That is where money would be squandered, when there is in situ a place that is absolutely ideal. No other hospital buildings in the Region lend themselves to development as a residential training centre from the point of view of location, layout and current availability. The conversion of the David Salomons Science Theatre will cost somewhere in the region of £35,000 to £40,000. I think heating will cost about £25,000. As to the fittings, furniture and other things, I do not know—but let us say 1054 £15,000. But that is only one-tenth, roughly, of what it would cost us if we had to start from scratch and build a new place, which, as I have already said, we should have to do, having regard to the training demands of that particular Regional Health Authority.
The Authority has emphasised that it needs the whole house for training purposes and, as I have been at some pains to point out, this includes the Science Theatre, which is to be used as the main lecture and conference hall. One of the problems we are facing in the National Health Service today, I think—and this is a personal opinion—is that we are working in a too closely knit organisation. I am sure the noble Lord. Lord Cottesloe, who has had more experience in this field than anyone in your Lordships' House (I have known him for 30 years or more, and ever since I have known him he has been involved in this), will know that we must bring in the general practitioners, the health visitors, indeed the vast army of people who are serving the National Health Service—not just the administrators but the nursing sisters, the tutors and so on. We can do that only if we can house them, and we envisage a very frequent use of this Science Theatre, both as a main lecture hall and as a conference hall.
Moreover, there would be practical difficulties—and, again, the noble Lord. Lord Strathcona, who has visited the place will know this—in having a public museum in the middle of a training centre for Health Service personnel. All necessary steps are being taken to ensure the preservation of the Welte organ which is installed in the Science Theatre, and it can be made available for public viewing by prior arrangement with the training centre authorities. But I know that this is not being realistic at all. We have great sympathy with the view that this organ should be available; but we must face the fact that the organ has apparently remained, not only intact but unused, for something like 38 years. It will cost a colossal sum to put that right. I believe it has something like 2,400 pipes.
The ideal solution to this would be for the Welte organ and the Piano Museum to be housed in one building in a more central place. My noble friend Lord Janner talked about the large number of 1055 people who would visit it. I do not know whether my noble friend has been to see the David Salomons lecture theatre. It is not an easy place to get to unless you have a car. It is off the beaten track, and it is off the map. You will not get vast numbers of people going there. We should like to see the Piano Museum and this organ housed in a suitable place within easy access of the metropolis so that people could visit it. We have great sympathy with what the present curator of the Piano Museum wants to do. We understand from what has been said tonight that a large number of people are anxious to see the Piano Museum preserved and the Welte organ perhaps incorporated in it. It would be ideal if this could be done, but I think that the people who want this have got to do something more, if I may say so, than sign petitions and send letters. I think they have got to back their interest with a certain amount of financial subscription; and if this is so much in demand, as I would hope it is, it should not be difficult to do this.
The Regional Health Authority—and I am empowered to say this appreciate the concern to find a home for the Piano Museum, but do not feel that they can alter their intended use of the Science Theatre. I think we would be accused of squandering money if, as a result, we then had to build something else to take its place. There are two memento rooms there, as noble Lords will know. I have seen them myself. There is no reason why certain electrical fitments should not be put there; but I have been told that the Science Museum in South Kensington and the South Eastern Electricity Board, who are forming amuseum at Tonbridge, have been consulted and have both expressed interest in the electrical fittings in the Science Theatre. Now Tonbridge is not all that distance away. I do not know whether it would be possible to get them interested in the organ, which is indeed a remarkable thing. One does not see them very often. But, of course, it would 1056 involve its removal and re-assembly. I believe that some years ago it was offered to the local vicar, who found that it would cost£2,000 to remove and re-assemble the piano; and I think he was also faced with the possibility of a bill of several thousand pounds more to strengthen his church to house it. Obviously, it is going to cost a great deal more. I do not know that I can usefully add anything else. We have gone into this matter very carefully. If it had been possible in some way to meet the request, noble Lords can take it from me that we should have done so. But we do need the Theatre, and I think we are under an obligation to use it in the way that we are proposing.
Having said that, I can only repeat that we hope that some means can be found whereby the Piano Museum can find more suitable premises where perhaps it might be possible to have the Welte organ, if it is wanted, and where it can be available to far more people than it is at the present moment. I do not think, having seen the Theatre myself, that it would be the right place to site the Piano Museum because it is so much off the beaten track. One would be living in a fool's paradise if one felt that a vast army of people were going to trek there every week to see it. I am sorry I cannot be more encouraging. In fact, I have not been encouraging at all. It is not as though we have dismissed this matter lightly. Noble Lords will know that it has been raised in another place; it has been given a great deal of attention and I think we really must go ahead. In fact, we have made a start, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, knows, and I hope the hall will be fully operative by the coming Easter.