HL Deb 11 February 1985 vol 460 cc7-8

2.47 p.m.

Lord Strabolgi

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Theatre Museum will be opened next year as planned, in view of reports that the 1985–86 grant is insufficient to assemble and display the collection.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Arts (The Earl of Gowrie)

My Lords, the opening date for the Theatre Museum in its new premises is a matter for the Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum. I understand that they have not yet decided how they will use their allocation of resources for running costs in 1985–86, which included special additional provison towards the Theatre Museum's preparatory costs. The building work itself should be completed next year as planned.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, while thanking the noble Earl for that reply, may I ask him whether sufficient funds have been earmarked for the Theatre Museum to assemble and set up its collection for display in the building which is nearing completion?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, as I have said, how the funds are distributed is a matter not for me but for the Victoria and Albert Museum. However, the museum's allocation for running costs, which includes allowance for the Theatre Museum, for 1985–86 is nearly £9½ million, excluding receipts. This is 5.5 per cent. higher than the figure for the current financial year and compares very well, I think, with the overall settlement for the national museums of 4.6 per cent.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, in view of the fact that the Victoria and Albert Museum needs a certain programme of refurbishing and repair to its fabric, which is essential work, will the Government confirm that sufficient money will be made available for this necessary work and also for the Theatre Museum?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, this is precisely what I have done, as I said in my previous supplementary answer. I do not control—and I know that the noble Lord would not wish me to control—how the Victoria and Albert Museum spends its money; but it has a generous comparative settlement this year.

The Earl of Bessborough

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that while I hope that the Theatre Museum at Covent Garden will open as soon as possible, we are hoping to open, around Whitsun, a modest exhibition from the museum at Stansted in Sussex. This will be in conjunction with the Chichester Festival Theatre.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on his interesting domestic initiative; and I understand that he has already approached the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, is it true that commercial breaks are now allowable in your Lordships' House?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, only if, like recent events at the Chichester Festival, they are eligible for my own business sponsorship incentive scheme!

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, remaining in the theatre context, is the noble Earl able to give some explanation of the deplorable decision to close the Cottlesloe Theatre? Did he have anything to do with that?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, a generous settlement was made, as always, to the National Theatre. But that question is extremely wide of the one on the Order Paper. I shall be delighted to deal with this matter if a Question is put down in the ordinary way.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, while admitting the fact that it is very wide of the main Question, may I say that the answer to it is exactly the same as the noble Earl has given for the main Question. Is the noble Earl aware that the worrying aspect to us is that the Theatre Museum has been gradually brought up over the past eight years, and it is just at the point of taking-off, as it were, when now there seems to be a real threat that there will not be enough money for it to do so? The noble Earl cannot satisfy us by saying that he has given a generous amount of money to somebody else. What we want to know is whether he can influence those people to see that the Theatre Museum is opened.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, as I said in my original Answer, the building work on the Theatre Museum should be completed next year as planned. Even as I am dealing with this question, work is taking place on the project; and while funding it is for the Victoria and Albert Museum and not for me, the museum's allocation for running costs this year has included budgeting for the Theatre Museum.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, do I take it from that answer that the noble Earl is saying that so far as he is concerned the Theatre Museum will open?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, so far as I am concerned, it certainly will. However, as I say, it is not in my power to confirm that: it is a matter for the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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