HL Deb 16 June 1982 vol 431 cc630-1

2.42 p.m.

Lord Strabolgi

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 whether they will make a Statement on the proposed Theatre Museum.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, the case for a Theatre Museum has been recognised by successive Governments in recent years. It was previously decided in principle that the proposed museum, as a department of the Victoria and Albert Museum, should be accommodated in the former Flower Market in Covent Garden. The recently published report of a Rayner scrutiny of the Victoria and Albert Museum, however, included certain recommendations on the future of this project. The Government are consulting interested parties on these as well as other recommendations in the report. Final decisions will be taken after the consultation period ends in August.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, while thanking the noble Earl for answering my Question, may I ask him whether he is aware that several theatrical collections were given to the Victoria and Albert Muxeum on the understanding that a theatre museum would be established '? Furthermore, may I also ask him whether he is aware that there is great concern in many quarters about the attitude shown in the Rayner scrutiny report to this particular project, and will the Government confirm that whatever happens it will not be scrapped?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his remarks, particularly for the first ones, of which I am not aware, and the second of which, of course, I am aware. I will just say that of course we are making no decisions until August.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that a good many people concerned with museums think it rather impertinent for outsiders to suggest that the policy which the Government and the museums have adopted for the last six or seven years (as the noble Earl said in answering) is, in fact, irrelevant to the proper use and function of the Victoria and Albert Museum? Is the noble Earl aware that a number of things have been given to the Theatre Museum, such as the Diaghilev backdrops and things of that sort which are of considerable value? Is the noble Earl aware that we are very grateful that no decision will be made until August and we hope very much that in August the right decision will be made?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, again I shall bear the noble Lord's remarks in mind, but of course I cannot prejudge any decision.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that what he says is rather disturbing, that there is a widespread feeling that this matter has gone on for long enough; and that the suggestion which is now being made that there is to be some further delay is one which I hope he will use his influence to prevent? Moreover, I hope he will be able, before very long, to give the House an assurance that this long-awaited project will now continue without further prevarication or delay.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, of course I am well aware of the noble Lord's interest in this matter in that he did, indeed, start this project when he himself was a Minister for the Arts. The fact that the lease with the GLC has still not been finished was partly due to the flooding during the noble Lord's term of office in, I think, 1978. But negotiations are still going on and I do not believe that the present consultations will make any undue delay at all.