HL Deb 19 May 1981 vol 420 cc833-5

3.2 p.m.

Lord Segal

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 what extensions to the Tate Gallery are planned on the site of the former Millbank Hospital, when they are likely to be completed, and what is their estimated cost.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Bellwin)

My Lords, a new museum to house a large part of the Turner Bequest is to be built on part of the Millbank Hospital site. Work is expected to start at the beginning of 1982 and take two years to complete. The estimated cost of the building, which will be linked to the Tate Gallery, is £5½ million: funds have been donated by the Clore Foundation.

Lord Segal

My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that reply and paying tribute to the generosity and public spirit of the trustees of the Clore Foundation for their magnificent bequest, may I ask whether the noble Lord is aware that his reply will give great relief that this unique collection will at last be found a worthy permanant home? May I ask the noble Lord two supplementary questions? Is it proposed that there will be direct access to the extension from the existing Tate Gallery building, either underground or above ground? And will there be an opportunity for a wider examination to be made of the proposed plans for this building?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord is pleased at the Answer, and I am inclined to agree with him that this would be the feeling of most Members of your Lordships' House. With regard to the access point, perhaps it would be helpful if I were to say that two of the four ward blocks will shortly be demolished to make way for the new Turner Museum, and the remaining two will be used to provide much needed storage space for the Tate Gallery. Other buildings which will be retained as part of the overall redevelopment will be used as offices, including a new home for the National Art Collections Fund. Quite what the effect of that will be on the access I am not too sure.

Perhaps it would be helpful if I were to say—also covering the second point the noble Lord made—as regards an opportunity for there to be public comment on the proposed redevelopment, the Westminster City Council are presently considering a notice to propose development and they have invited representations. Drawings and a model are being displayed at City Hall and later they will also be displayed at the Tate Gallery. I would have thought that that was the time for people to have their say on this matter.

Lord Hutchinson of Lullington

My Lords, as chairman of the trustees of the Tate Gallery, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that a very distinguished architect, Mr. James Stirling, has been engaged by the trustees to design this building, and that access to the building will indeed be from the Gallery itself and from the outside? May I ask the Minister, enlarging perhaps the sense of the Question, whether he is aware that the Tate Gallery now has become one of the greatest museums of modern art in the world, and that the rate of expansion of the Gallery must, therefore, exceed the rate of any other museum of fine arts in the country? In those circumstances, would the Minister urge the Government to give the development of the rest of the site urgent priority so that the public are able, as the Minister agrees they are entitled to be able, to see the works which we acquire, which we are at the moment quite unable to put on show?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his obviously very informed response to the point of access and the other matters. I do not think anyone would quarrel with any of the observations he has made. As to the point about the rest of the site which it is planned to redevelop, I would only say that there are plans, of which I am sure the noble Lord is aware, and it is hoped to provide for the future expansion of the Tate Gallery on this site, possibly, or should I say, hopefully, by means of further donations of private funds.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, arising out of what my noble friend Lord Hutchinson said, would the Government bear in mind that there are many important 19th century paintings, particularly Victorian paintings, in which there is an increasing interest which it is Impossible to accommodate in the present accommodation of the Tate Gallery? Will it be possible for this to be borne in mind in any extensions, either for Turner or for other works?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I unhesitatingly bow to the greater knowledge of the noble Lord on this subject. I will read with interest what he has said and assure him that we will consider it carefully.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that my supplementary question is a complete non sequitur, but, if he would like to enjoy seeing future exhibitors at the Tate, there is a marvellous exhibition of children's paintings upstairs in this House at the present moment.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I hear what the noble Lord says.

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