HL Deb 19 May 1976 vol 370 cc1393-5

2.50 p.m.


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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Trustees of the Tate Gallery intend to use the site of the Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital as additional space for housing its growing collection, as stated by the Prime Minister on 8th July 1969.

The MINISTER of STATE, DEPARTMENT of EDUCATION and SCIENCE (Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge)

My Lords, I am aware that the Trustees of the Tate Gallery hope to use the premises of the military hospital. I intend to find resources to make this move possible, as soon as the economic situation permits. The Trustees also have plans, when funds can be made available, for a new building on the site. I am sorry that in present circumstances I cannot say when that will be possible.


My Lords, I understand that the Trustees of the Tate Gallery will be able to take over the old hospital building by August of next year in order to relieve the very serious congestion, and then I hope that, before too long, they will have a new building in its place. Will the Minister say whether I have understood this situation correctly from the Answer that was given to the earlier Question and, also, from the Answer to this Question?


My Lords, my noble friend has described the situation accurately. There is one imponderable; that is, that we are awaiting a survey from the Department of the Environment of the cost of doing what is necessary to the military hospital. Clearly, if this cost were either very large or very small, the speed with which this could be done would vary.


My Lords, can my noble friend say whether it is intended ultimately to utilise the hospital buildings on both sides of the Tate Gallery?


My Lords, I do not think I can answer that question. I have been there recently, but I have only been round the hospital buildings on one side of the Tate Gallery; so I am afraid I am not in a position to give an answer about the other side, but I will write to the noble Lord.


My Lords, I should like to say to the noble Lord the Minister that the correct answer to that question is, No, and I should also like to ask a question. May I suggest that the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, described the intention of the Trustees quite accurately, but she did not say when it is likely to be a fact, because Millbank is 70 years old, and in my opinion it ought not to be knocked down without good reason?


My Lords, I am not quite clear what the noble Lord means. I understand that the evacuation of the hospital by the military medical personnel will be in 1977, and from that moment the hospital building will become available to the Tate Gallery. If the noble Lord is saying that that is a very good thing and they should be allowed to use it but not allowed to pull it down and build something else until it is worn out, I should not like to comment on that. The proposition of firm plans for rebuilding a vast new structure here is possible but is not at the moment being contemplated, although we all hope to see it contemplated in due course; however, "due course" might be so long that the present building will need to be replaced anyhow.


My Lords, in other words the noble Lord the Minister is saying that he cannot guarantee that the Millbank hospital will be destroyed. In that case, may I ask whether it was wise for the medical men of the Army to move to Woolwich?


My Lords, I give no guarantees of any kind, nor do I offer any criticism of the wisdom of the medical men of the Army.