§ 4.38 p.m.
§ The Earl of Perth rose to call attention to the state of museums and galleries and to matters of concern to them, including treasure trove and the export of works of art; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. It is still, although only just, "Museums Year" which lasts throughout 1989. Further, it is the centenary of the formation of the Museums Association. It is therefore very appropriate that we should debate museums and galleries together. I am sure that all your Lordships will join in wishing the Museums Association another century of great activity and help.
§ When I tabled my Motion, I was not sure how other noble Lords who are expert on this subject would view it. However, when I look at the galaxy of talent which is to speak, I am very comforted. I know that the debate will be splendid and I thank all those who are to take part.
§ It would be invidious to mention names, except for one—our maiden speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Walpole. He has told me something of the line he is going to take and how he intends to avoid being too controversial. I said to him that it is quite right to do that when making a maiden speech on political matters, but on a subject such as the one we are discussing today, however controversial he wants to be the better.
§ When I look at the position of the museums and galleries of this country in general, the first matter which strikes me is that over the past few years local 1328 museums and provincial museums have relatively improved their status and position. Of course, if I say "relatively" one asks: relative to what? In that respect, the national museums and galleries have shown a decline. Do not misunderstand me, my Lords. Part of that decline is their own deliberate choice; that is, they have built up out-stations throughout the country and they and the National Heritage have often ensured that great works of art go to the provinces rather than stay only in London and Edinburgh. That is a course of action which I am sure is to be applauded. It means that the country as a whole is taking more and more interest in what I call the general artistic background of the country, particularly what is happening in their own localities. The individuals and the local councils responsible for that growth are to be congratulated.
§ I said that there was a relative decline of the national museums and galleries. I hope that I shall not be misunderstood when I say that because, of course, they are, and must remain, the centres of excellence and learning in this country, recognised as the equal of any in the world. They are museums and galleries enjoyed by visitors from all over the world.
§ Indeed, quite recently, the Government recognised that fact. They gave £40 million grant to improve the structure and to help with necessary repairs to the national museums. I know that all your Lordships will be grateful for that. I do not wish to appear churlish but I wish that it had been the £100 million suggested when the question arose of the Thyssen collection. However, we must be thankful for small mercies. If that sum could be increased in the next year or two, then the basic worries of the national museums would disappear. We should know at least that they were structurally sound and in a position to safeguard and conserve what is so important: our greatest national treasures.
§ I have received a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Molson, regretting that he is not able to be here today; his health does not permit it. The letter states how anxious he is that the money should be spent with care and points out that the galleries have not been accustomed to this task because it has been done by the PSA. Of course, that has changed but the noble Lord believes that the five museums which receive most of this money should look to the Museums Association or others to help them to ensure that it is well spent.
§ The grant for acquisitions by museums is pitifully small. I think I am right in saying that the grant for all the national museums would not be enough to buy the Canova, a subject of which we are all aware at the present time. It certainly could not buy a top class French impressionist work. However, with the help of the National Heritage in particular, the museums and galleries have shown great initiative. Something of great importance happened recently. I may or may not have my facts right, but I think it was the National Gallery and the National Gallery of Wales which together bought a Claude. It will be displayed for some time in one place and for some time in the other. That may well be a good example to follow, but I must issue a word of warning 1329 Pictures are fragile. We must be careful that this does not become too general a practice.
§ I said that the national museums and galleries have had their worries removed to some degree. But money is at the heart of everything, and the heroic efforts of their sponsors and friends are not enough. I favour charges, but I know that this is a controversial issue. I have suggested as a compromise that in the winter there should be no charges but that in summer, when many visitors come, there should be charges. Everyone would understand that.
§ My Motion mentions two specific points; the export of works of art and treasure trove. I should like to draw the House's attention to the 35th annual report of the Reviewing Committee for the Export of Works of Art. It is well worth reading. It is entertainingly written and full of good material. One general matter in the report filled me with dismay. In the past five years the committee has managed to stop the export of eminent objects valued at £19 million, but objects valued at £80 million have gone abroad. In other words, only one-fifth of those important objects have been saved for this country. Ten years ago the ratio was 50:50. There is a lesson here which the Government should take seriously to heart.
§ Despite that, the report says that the committee is comforted by the success of the "in lieu" provision—noble Lords will know what I mean by that—and by the fact that the douceur has encouraged many people to come to private arrangements with the national museums or other public museums. It points out, however, that with the changes in taxation the douceur is now worth only 10 per cent. instead of 15 per cent. I fear what the result of this will be. People may say that it is not worth doing for 10 per cent. I ask the Government to take a special look at this point and to increase the douceur to 40 per cent, approximately the same level as before.
§ As I read and re-read the report, I come more and more to the conclusion that the work of the committee is creaking. I shall explain what I have in mind. The Waverley criteria remain the best that we could have but beyond that there are serious deficiencies. I refer in particular to the "indefinite stop". Most noble Lords will know about the indefinite stop, but I cite again the example of the Canova. We have just learnt that the Minister for the Arts has stopped its export for another four months. During those four months there may be a successful appeal. It will then be open for the owner to say that he will not accept the £7 million. What will happen then? All the money will have to be returned to the donors who were so generous. The owner may be in a position in 18 months to ask for another export licence.
§ What can one do? One cannot warm up cold meat. It may not be possible to raise the money a second time. The cost may be very much higher. The owner may say that the work of art is more valuable because it has the imprimatur of the reviewing committee. We are in a mess on this issue. I beg the Government to do what they have been asked to do and which they undertook to do 18 months ago. I ask them somehow to ensure that this indefinite stop 1330 procedure is allowed a second time. It used to happen. This is a matter of the greatest importance. If they do not, they will have to take the blame for what happens to the Canova.
§ I must be careful with the time that is available to me and so I shall not go over the other weakenings set out in the report. I suggest, however, that the Reviewing Committee for the Export of Works of Art should form a special working party made up partly of its members and partly of people from outside. They should study the various deficiencies in the present system and report to the Government. I suggest that such a working party should do this because it knows the position so well.
§ The delays in regard to treasure trove have been even worse. Three years ago I asked a Question in which I said that this should be a matter of urgent study. The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, agreed and said that he would take the matter on. We were all much encouraged. The noble Lord left that post and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, took it on. He was equally enthusiastic, and after 18 months, with a certain amount of prodding, he gave all kinds of assurances. He asked us to be a little more patient and he said that it would happen soon. Eighteen months have gone by and nothing has happened. This cannot be allowed to wait. Many noble Lords will have read in the newspapers of what has happened in the meantime. Treasures such as the Icklingham bronzes have been slipping away. People are advertising in Australia and America the kind of things that have been taken out. I beg the Government to think about this.
§ I have a specific recommendation to make. We do not have the same problem in Scotland because we operate not only treasure trove but also what is known as bona vacantia. Under this system of law, if someone dies intestate and has no relations, his estate goes to the Crown. We in Scotland have the two principles side by side. Why cannot England and Wales do the same? I am sure that the matter is very complicated and difficult. Indeed, it must be if, after three years, it is still unresolved. However, here is something which is working in Scotland. If it were implemented here it would ensure that the opportunity will be there to save those items which are not gold or silver but which are of immense importance to the country.
§ I shall give one last example. The Coppergate Helm was discovered in Yorkshire. It was found by a worker. He reported it to the authorities, although it was not of gold or silver. However, it was immensely important and perhaps the most important helm ever discovered in this country. The worker was given a derisory reward by York City Council. But if we had the bona vacantia system in place the worker would have been given the right figure, according to the worth of the discovery. In any event, he would have done exactly what he did do, but others might have been encouraged to do likewise.
§ I believe that many people, including the great majority of those who use metal detectors, would welcome such a move. If the Government say that they will do something very quickly, that is fine. However, if not, please let them adopt this solution. I beg to move for Papers.1331
§ 4.51 p.m.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to be able to say a few words in this short debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Perth. As a past chairman of the reviewing committee, he is an authority on the export of works of art. Decisions on these matters are geared to current values which then affect what a gallery or a museum can afford to buy.
The Motion mentions "treasure trove" and to me that is an interesting subject, especially as I live on top of a Roman camp. However, it is a subject of concern to museums of antiquities. My concern is with galleries. It relates to my interest in the visual arts. There is some separation between antiquities and galleries. I am a little apprehensive when galleries start adding artefacts to their collections to stand beside or in front of paintings or sculptures.
The National Gallery of Scotland is small in size and filled—thanks, in part, to the noble Duke the Duke of Sutherland—with works of very high quality. Recently the gallery has undergone a refurbishment exercise with many of the walls being covered in a dark claret colour which is alien to the paintings of the Dutch and of the Flemish schools and to those of Turner. However, the addition of furniture and clocks has helped to humanise the gallery.
But perhaps the trustees should guard against treating the building as a gentleman's palazzo rather than a gallery, the charm of which is due to its size and the uncluttered display of its works. In fairness to Mr. Tim Clifford, the gallery's imaginative and genial director, I should say that my comments are subjective and that they come from the descendant of a long line of austere Scots, some of them Quakers. As to the future, I hope that future expansion will be provided by the proposed Museum of Scotland which will be able to cater for any overflow of the Scottish paintings.
New acquisitions are of concern to all galleries and museums. Those of us who travel through Western Europe are able to enjoy wonderful galleries and collections. We must do all we can to compete with them, if for no other reason than to increase the cultural inheritance available to visitors both from home and from overseas.
My noble friend mentioned the overseas visitors and the great temptation there is to introduce charges at any rate during the summer months. The Government must realise that an increase in the size of purchase grants is long overdue. Opportunities for acquisitions come regularly and galleries should be able to take advantage of them, especially when they are right for their particular gallery. A recent example of this was the help given by the Heritage Memorial Fund to assist the purchase of the Alan Ramsay portrait of Sir Hew Dalrymple for the Portrait Gallery.
As my noble friend said, the Government's record as regards buildings and their fabric has been good. Throughout the country they are helping to restore the fabric of galleries and museums. In Edinburgh they have made a generous allocation of £2.5 million for air conditioning and other improvment to the Royal Scottish Academy. Due to the fact that the building belongs to the National Gallery, that money 1332 has been passed on to the academy by the trustees. No strings have been attached on the way and the Royal Scottish Academy's rights and privileges will be respected and preserved.
Perhaps I may touch upon the plight of the non-national museums, especially the Scottish Maritime Museum, the Scottish Mining Museum and the Summerlee Complex, which record our recent industrial past for the benefit of future generations. The work is shared by several other museums throughout Scotland, These museums perform a national role, as instanced by the prefix in several cases of "Scottish". Their importance was emphasised when the Miles Report was published on behalf of the Museums and Galleries Commission in 1986. I should like to quote a few sentences from the report. They read as follows:What has been facing us in the last two or three decades is the rapid decline and disappearance of established and mainly heavy industries. An awareness of this fundamental change has led to a desire to preserve and record relics of industry as inherently admirable achievements".The report goes on to describe the few sources of funding available mainly from the Manpower Services Commission, from the Museums' Council, from the national museums and from local authorities. Since then the role of the Manpower Services Commission has changed to employment training and therefore that source of funding has dried up. The two national museums in Edinburgh which have industrial sections need all their resources for their own departments. Moreover, local authority funding will not materialise without a lead from government.
At present the non-national museums are left without any revenue funding from the Government to pay for the staff needed to preserve for future generations a record of Scotland's recent industrial past, which is in fact the history of the whole of the central belt. Recent efforts to persuade the Scottish Office to recognise the worsening situation have been to no avail. I earnestly hope that the Government will see their way to making some effort to fill a gap which is gaping open.
Finally, perhaps I may touch upon the choice of trustees and museum staff. If they are knowledgeable and have the right qualifications, the institutions will thrive and exude self-confidence and happiness. However, too much emphasis can be given to the business side of the matter. I am a little worried when I hear that the directorship of the Museum of Wales has gone to a businessman and that the deputy directorship of the Tate Gallery has gone to a merchant banker. In Scotland, the chairman of the National Gallery is a merchant banker, Mr. Angus Grossart; moreover one trustee, Dr. Begg, is an accountant, while another, Sir Norman MacFarlane, is head of Guinness.
While the energies and abilities of such people must be acknowledged, as well as their discrimination in works of art, they have been chosen for their powers as businessmen and not as aesthetes or scholars. Therefore the chairman must rely heavily upon the director for aesthetic advice. These few comments are offered without wishing to minimise the splendid way in which the national galleries are run.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Lord Grimond
My Lords, I shall start by thanking the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for introducing the debate and for the excellent speech he made in so doing. I should also like to say what an honour it is to follow a real live artist in a debate. Indeed, it is most rare as we are mostly "slippered Pantaloons" who look at such matters from a theoretical point of view.
I sometimes wince when I hear talk of saving our heritage. No one is going to tear up very valuable pictures; nor will they smash up any furniture. Too often, our heritage appears to consist of Dutch, French and Italian pictures, French furniture and German porcelain, much of which has arrived in this country purely fortuitously because people bought it on the grand tour.
Our first priority should be to save buildings and their contents in the place for which they were designed, and gardens and landscapes. I am glad to be able to say that the capacity of trustees and directors is ameliorating. When I first entered the other place the controversy over the Lane pictures was raging. Being an innocent character from the North, I assumed that art being a civilising influence there would be give and take about the future of those pictures and that everyone would behave in a civilised manner. Far from it. I found that the directors of English galleries behaved like cats squabbling over a piece of fish. That position has improved.
We must also hope that architects have improved, although that hope may be frustrated. My conclusion is that the first priority should be the national trusts. They do more than anyone else to preserve our heritage. Let no one say that it is unnecessary. Look at the fate of George Square in Edinburgh. That was a charming form of architecture unique in Europe, but it was not well known, expensive or grand. It was ruthlessly pulled down by the University of Edinburgh and a hideous building was put in its place.
I should like to congratulate the National Heritage Memorial Fund, whose chairman I see preening himself in his place. It seems to be on the right lines. It made a mistake by buying an expensive Picasso, but in general it does not seem to have been overtaken by the folie de grandeur. It has a variety of valuable smaller treasures. The art world has become big business. We now know that Sotheby's does not only set big prices; it lends the money. I suppose that that is legitimate, but it seems odd.
The first thing that I think should be done is that governments should get together. There should be some international agreement on exempting works of art from taxation. Secondly, few works of art should be refused an export licence. If they are, it should be a complete refusal. Their export should be forbidden. If those articles are of priceless value to the country and the heritage their retention should not depend upon whether a gallery can raise the amount of money needed to keep them.
I also put in a plea for some generosity among the major galleries of the world. I am not especially keen to return the Elgin Marbles but I should not passionately oppose it. I should like to see some of 1334 the dozen and dozen of Canalettos in this country returned to Venice. To see two or three along the Grand Canal would be a great pleasure. As tourism spreads around the world many more people would probably see them than now do.
I should not be averse to returning some altar pieces to appropriate churches. I am not sure about putting renaissance altar pieces into Gothic churches, but they would look extremely well in the right church.
Those who run our galleries should appoint as trustees not just the rich and the great but artists and suchlike. There are some artists among trustees but the tendency is to appoint people who may be able to raise money. Although artists' taste is not always impeccable, they have a big part to play in preserving art. I should like galleries to be far more adventurous and buy modern art and art by living artists. It is rather horrifying to find that nearly all the great masterpieces in the Tate were given to it. The number of pictures that the Tate bought before they became popular and well known is very small. One has looked in vain for five or 10 years for any Scottish pictures. Now that they are worth £500,000 each the Tate is only too anxious to have them.
The great crime of the art world is to keep pictures in cellars. It is far worse than many things for which people are gaoled for years. I should be extremely reluctant to put more and more pictures into our galleries if they cannot hang them. Incidentally, I do not much favour big galleries. My favourite is the Maurishui's at The Hague, which is comparatively small.
I come now to the National Gallery for Scotland. There is a great deal of anxiety in Scotland because it has now closed some of its rooms. I am glad to be able to say that the Director has assured me that they are closed for one or two hours a day only. If anyone wants to see the pictures he will open the rooms. Furthermore, unlike most foreign galleries, it is not closed for the whole afternoon or on one day a week. Although it is a great pity that any of our national galleries should be closed, the position is not yet disastrous. The director believes that it will worsen because as civil servants' pay goes up the cost of attendants goes up. That is something over which he has no control. As the pictures are not insured he is bound to keep a fairly high level of attendants in the various galleries. I beg the Government to take that matter seriously. If more galleries are similarly affected or if the closures become longer I hope that they will make the funds available. They have, as has been said, done a good deal about the fabric of galleries, but they have not so far been generous over the running costs.
It is apparent, if one looks at the Scottish position, which I believe is duplicated elsewhere, that there may be demands to keep necessary pieces of our heritage. The annual grant to galleries will not cover that demand. There should be a reserve fund. We are deeply indebted to the noble Duke, the Duke of Sutherland. The glory and core of the Scottish National Gallery are the Sutherland pictures. If he wished to sell them he might get £80 million or £100 million. He has forgone the interest on that money for perhaps 70 or 80 years. He may be generous 1335 enough to go on for ever but he might need to sell one for some reason and the gallery's annual grant would not look at it. The Government were prepared to put up 100 million for the Thyssen pictures because they thought that they were prestigious. If they were prepared to do that, they should be prepared to put up a large sum for objects which are incomparably more important to this country. We should express our deep gratitude to the noble Duke, the Duke of Sutherland, and others like him who have not followed the enterprise culture which we are told by the Government is so important to us. They have values which are other than merely monetary.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Lord Walpole
My Lords, perhaps I may thank my noble friend Lord Perth for initiating the debate which gives me an opportunity to address the House for the first time on a subject close to my heart. When people mention museums and galleries it is almost inevitable that the first matter that arises is fine art. I am glad that my noble friend mentioned the subject of treasure trove because that is the side upon which I intend to hang my plea to the Government. I wish to talk about archaeology rather than fine art. My noble friend's remarks about treasure trove arise, and become more urgent, as a result of metal detectors and their use by unscrupulous people. Over a period of time such machines are becoming more powerful, more sophisticated and more discerning; in other words, we can find out what something is very much more easily. In unscrupulous hands the metal detector is a dangerous tool.
I know that there are responsible users who restrict the use of metal detectors to a code of practice that their association has brought out, but that code of practice does not have the force of law. Metal detectors are also useful for sweeping lines of road improvements after other methods of archaeological detection have been tried. We have recently used metal detectors on my estate before planting a wood for set-aside. I am relieved to say that we found nothing but 20th century agricultural artefacts.
Unfortunately, more unscrupulous users have raided archaeological sites during the course of excavation. That is at the worst end of the scale. They have also removed objects from sites of archaeology awaiting excavation. Some people have merely "done over" fields, of which there are many in my part of the world, simply because things have been found there before. Coins and such objects that have been found are in no way reported and without any record of their exact location and archaeological layer they are useless to the archaeologist, even if valuable to the finder. The recent removal of the bronzes which the noble Earl, Lord Perth, mentioned from Icklingham in Suffolk is a case in point. What appeared in a New York gallery may have been beautiful and valuable, but that is all. Those bronzes tell no story.
Therefore I was hoping that the Government might introduce legislation to license metal detectors and make some form of law to support the voluntary 1336 code of practice which I gather the more responsible people use. I also understand that the chairman of English Heritage, the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, has announced that his organisation is evaluating jamming machines so that metal detectors can be discouraged over a small area.
Turning to scheduled ancient monuments, I had hoped that the Environment Protection Bill from the Department of the Environment, foreshadowed in the Queen's Speech and now published, would contain further legislation to protect scheduled monuments. It is well known that the Department of the Environment and Norfolk County Council are worried about the lack of protection of monuments. Considerable correspondence and topic papers have passed between them.
In a nutshell, what is felt in Norfolk is that the Ancient Monuments (Class Consents) Order 1981 should be rescinded for Class 1 because it permits the destruction of monuments by ploughing and other agricultural practices. Proof of damage is needed in this case and the only way of finding out whether damage has been done to an earthen monument is by excavation which leads to further damage. It is a defence, in an attempted prosecution for damage to ancient monuments, for people to say that they were not aware that the monuments were scheduled. There are no enforcement powers to reinstate monuments which have been damaged without consent.
As was suggested by the last speaker, by contrast legislation protecting ancient buildings is far more powerful. The remedies suggested would be to revoke Class 1 of the Ancient Monuments (Class Consents) Order and to make it an offence to disturb an ancient monument unless it was part of an approved management regime and make powers to reinstate emergency repair or compulsorily to purchase such a monument. That would be the case with a listed building under the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. We should extend such powers on scheduled monuments to local authorities so that they could carry them out under that law.
By the time the Environment Protection Bill has passed into law and bearing in mind the Wildlife and Countryside Act, as well as various other pieces of protective legislation which the Government have brought forward in the past few years, archaeological remains have fared extremely badly. A "water soldier", which is a small aquatic plant floating in a dyke in the Norfolk Broads, has more protection than many long barrows.
Further, perhaps I may say a brief word about rescue archaeology. I think it is now accepted that developers need to pay for rescue work. Perhaps I may take two examples from what has happened in Norwich. Anglia Television has put forward a considerable amount of money for this with the extension of its television studios. With the Castle Mall shopping precinct in the centre of Norwich, the developers have put forward no less than £600,000 for the excavation of an important early Norman and medieval castle precinct.
The recent discovery of the Shakespearian theatre south of the Thames has drawn attention to the scale 1337 of the problems and put forward some solutions. However, when the Government themselves or a government department are the developers, it is not quite the same. Again, perhaps I may quote examples from a Norfolk County Council paper on two or three developments by government bodies. One is by the Department of Transport, the Norwich southern bypass. The paper says:This will cut through an area which is archaeologically one of the richest and most important in Norfolk. It will be close to the prehistoric Henge Monument at Arminghall, and the Roman town of Venta Icenorum. The archaeological programme for a watching brief and for detailed investigation … [could] cost around £144,000".It says, regarding the Dickleburgh bypass on the A.140 trunk road, that field patterns in this country are often assumed to be medieval or later. The framework of the hedgerow system in that area, being either side of the Roman road from Caistor St. Edmund through Scole to Colcheser, is likely to be Iron Age in origin. It is a unique opportunity to look at a landscape from this early period. That would cost some £30,000.
I am sorry that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is not here because his department has equal problems at King's Lynn in the development of the new Crown Courts. They are being built on an extremely important medieval site at Austin Street, next to St. Nicholas Chapel. The site is of medieval tenements, close to the medieval shoreline. Archaeological investigations on this site alone would cost some £129,000. The problem is that the Government do not pay for archaeological investigations in these cases; nor are sums included for archaeological investigations or rescue archaeology in cost-benefit analysis.
As I understand it, the Government insist that rescue archaeology should be through English Heritage. English Heritage has received, according to my knowledge, an extra £.100,000 for this purpose. Norfolk is only one-fifteenth of the area of England and Wales and f100,000 could go on one project alone in Norfolk.
In summary, archaeology is not always a fully understood science and the benefits of its work and interpretation are often underrated. For that reason, I urge the Government themselves to lead in rescue archaeology and to pass legislation that will protect our achaeological heritage from greed, ignorance and other pressures lest our heritage and our understanding of it and ourselves be lost forever.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Lord Montagu of Beaulieu
My Lords, it is a great pleasure for me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, on behalf of the whole House, on his excellent and well informed maiden speech. He certainly chose a subject which he knows well because he was at one time chairman of the south east area museum service and also a very able chairman of the East Anglian Tourist Board. I am sure that we look forward to hearing him take part in debates in your Lordships' House, especially when he speaks on subjects which he knows so well.
The debate today is certainly timely for two good reasons. First, it suitably marks the end of Museums 1338 Year, which was so designated as 1989 marks the centenary of the Museums Association. Secondly, the year has happily culminated in the Minister for the Arts winning extra funds from the Treasury for the national museums whose needs were desperate because of neglect over many years of their basic structures. However, it is rather ironic and salutary that the year also ends with yet more instances of great works of art leaving this country, either by legal or illegal means. That includes archaeological artefacts.
As chairman of English Heritage, I wish to express views on those two issues. The principal interests of English Heritage are the preservation and presentation of English historic buildings and monuments. But, just as importantly, English Heritage is the statutory adviser on heritage matters to the Secretary of State for the Environment. I have to say therefore that English Heritage was extremely disappointed with the recent decisions by the Secretary of State not to take legal action in relation to the removal from Woburn of "the Three Graces" by Canova without listed building consent. English Heritage is concerned that neither the local planning authorities nor the Department of the Environment have chosen to exercise their statutory powers in spite of the advice they obtained.
There is no doubt in our minds that fixtures and fittings, of which works of art such as "the Three Graces" are a prime example, which form part of an architectural ensemble, or statues designed at the time to fit formal historic gardens, are an integral part of a historic building. We submit that the listed building was constructed to display the Canova statue, and hence its removal removes the reason for the building. Therefore listed building consent was and is required for its removal. As a result of this decision, there is now growing public concern over the removal and ultimate inevitable export of many similar objects.
Although it is the view of English Heritage that legislation is more than adequate, clearly its application is not. There is no doubt that there are many misunderstandings about the law relating to fixtures and fittings in listed buildings, and as regards precisely what objects may be covered by listed building control. It is clearly in the public interest and that of private owners that the law should be clarified and new guidelines issued. English Heritage is therefore taking the initiative. I have convened a meeting of all interested parties, both public and private, at the end of January to discuss the issues. I hope that in the long run agreed guidelines may prove beneficial to all concerned as no one wants to see an ever increasing flood of objects leaving the country.
I understand that in a statement my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment welcomed this initiative. He acknowledged at the same time that the legal advice he received was that "the Three Graces" would normally be considered as part of the listed building. Nevertheless, there are many owners who feel strongly that such objects are chattels and in many cases the proceeds from their sale are often devoted to desperately needed repairs to historic buildings. I 1339 sympathise with these objectives, but perhaps I may remind owners that listed building control does not necessarily prevent any changes, if there are good reasons for them. It does, however, ensure that there is proper public debate of the issues when listed building consent is sought.
I turn now to the illicit removal of artefacts from archaeological sites. This is perhaps an even more difficult subject. We cannot hope to protect every site in the country from treasure hunters. Nonetheless, we are considering whether we can pinpoint the most important sites at risk rather more narrowly to assess the possibility of extending better protection to them. As the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, said, we are also looking into the possibility of further research into electronic devices, although there are limitations on their use. I must say, however, that for as long as there exists a market, particularly overseas, for this kind of object, it will continue to be difficult to protect our sites. Perhaps the time has come to look again at the advantages which ratification of the 1970 Unesco convention might bring. I ask the Government to consider that again.
I shall now return to the general subject of museums. I very much welcome the new realism which is apparent, particularly in national museums. This is especially evident with the long overdue introduction of admission charges at the Science Museum and other museums. I hope that charges will soon be made compulsory at the Victoria and Albert Museum. As one of the last nations in the world to cling to what I consider to be the outmoded Victorian ethic of free museums, it seems strange to me that the last people who are ever consulted about the desirability of charging are the public. However, when they are asked—especially overseas visitors—they overwhelmingly think that charges are justified.
It is also claimed that attendance figures fall dramatically when charges are made. However, the figures when admission was free were, to say the least, fanciful, and sometimes almost imaginary. One cannot therefore say that figures have fallen 40 per cent. from a figure which never existed to begin with. I do not suggest for one moment that charging alone will solve the financial problems of the national museums. However, I wish to remind the House that there are over 1,000 independent museums in this country, all of which have to charge to survive and many of which are in the forefront of innovation of museum techniques and presentation and which regularly appear as winners in the Museum of the Year awards. The debate this evening is not about them, and perhaps there is a lesson to be learned there.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ The Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair
My Lords, we have talked a great deal about money for the arts. I shall talk entirely about museums and galleries. These should be kept in the manner to which they should be accustomed. However, this requires vision and prescience as well as money.
1340 It was something like 18 years ago that this House debated the introduction of admission charges for museums. Lord Clark of "Civilisation" fame made a speech giving cogent reasons for not adopting that practice. I too am opposed to admission charges. I know it is courtesy to declare one's interest in this House. I have a rather grubby card. It is grubby from more than 30 years of use. It is my membership card of the International Association of Art Critics and it gives me free entry to every museum and gallery in the world. Presumably, if charges were introduced here I would obtain free entry to British museums and galleries also.
As your Lordships will know, our galleries and museums are filled in the summer by many young foreigners, avid for opportunities to look at great works of art free of charge. Collectively, as tourists, they inject money into this country. Would museum charges discourage them and decrease their numbers? Certainly we know that even the voluntary charge at the Victoria and Albert has resulted in a considerable reduction in visitors.
Patronage of the arts has the unfortunate reputation of being considered elitist. It is considered that only a small percentage of people are regular aficionados. I shall give the annual attendance figures for the four major London galleries and museums. The British Museum has 4 million visitors, the National Gallery 3 million, the Tate Gallery 1.75 million and the Victoria and Albert 1.7 million. As I have already said, the figure for the Victoria and Albert Museum is way down on the figures that existed before the voluntary charge was introduced. Those figures add up to about 10.5 million visitors. I should have thought that compares quite favourably with attendance at football matches, cricket matches, and even with the television viewing of snooker. I do not believe that one can say that 10.5 million people are an elitest bunch, even though many of those are the foreigners aforementioned and people like myself who go more than once.
I suppose that an argument could be made that if that many visitors were asked for a donation, even voluntarily, that would raise significant revenue. However, I imagine that after administrative costs the sum raised would pay for about one square foot of a Van Gogh. The national museums should be funded with much more money than at present, and museum charges, objected to by most museum people, are not the answer.
All civilisations are remembered for their arts before all else. Successive governments should be trustees for future millenia and must consider the judgment of history if they fail to supply the wherewithal. At present the national museums have trustees. They have been selected for their knowledge and judgment in the visual arts. Yet when a really important work is destined for export they are not trusted and must go cap in hand to the Treasury for money. That seems to me to be an extremely top-heavy and cumbersome way of trying to keep artistic works in this country.
I have nothing more to say except to give this awful warning to the Government. In the 1890s the banker Gustave Caillebotte, who was himself a very fine painter, died leaving what was unquestionably 1341 the greatest collection of impressionist paintings to the Louvre. The Louvre took a handful. The rest were sold to America. Anyone thinking that the Americans scoop up all Europe's art would be mistaken in that particular case; it was just that the French did not want them. That, I hope, is an awful warning to the Government to look to the future. They should fund the buying and keeping of all the great works in this country before any suggestion of export licences has to be considered.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Lord Armstrong of Ilminster
My Lords, I should like first to apologise to your Lordships and to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for not being here when the debate began. I am afraid that my excuse is the vagaries of air traffic. My aeroplane back from the Continent was the best part of an hour late in arriving.
The two previous speakers have both referred to admission charges at the national museums. One of them was for and the other was against. The trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum are somewhere between those two positions. We have been very concerned over the past year or more about the relative decline in our grant for running costs as against the increase in those running costs, particularly this year when the running costs grant went up by just 3 per cent. and our salaries and wages, fixed centrally by the Treasury, rose by 10 per cent. In that context one is bound to look at every possible means of covering one's costs. We have again reviewed the possibility of compulsory charges for entry.
The grant that we have received for 1990–91, at 13.7 per cent., has greatly relieved our immediate anxieties. It is by no means excessive for our needs against the pattern of previous years but at least, provided that wages and salaries do not go up by too much next year, it should enable us to survive for another year without having to cut back our activities. For that relief we are indeed grateful. It has also meant that we have decided not to introduce compulsory admission charges, although that matter is kept under review.
The voluntary donation system that we have now was introduced to provide the museum with enough money to enable it to reopen on Fridays, cost constraints having compelled it some years ago to close on Fridays. We are now open every day. That was also a welcome relief to us.
So far as we can judge, we do not believe that the introduction of compulsory charges would be a panacea for our ills given that one would want to grant certain exemptions and reductions for children, students, old people, and so on. There might also perhaps be a free day. The additional revenue that we would receive would not be tremendous, but nonetheless that is an option that in certain circumstances we would have to and would consider. For the moment, however, we continue as we are.
While speaking about money I should also reflect that the grant for next year for our buildings at the V&A will enable us to keep our building programme 1342 going. It will also enable us to start work on the adaptation of the Royal College of Art building which is reverting to the V&A next year. So far that is good news. We are at least able to keep pace with our problems.
The other matter to which I should like to refer is that which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, just now; namely, the export of works of art. The system that we have had in this country is creaking under the strain. From where I view it that strain is related very much to the fact that the V&A, the national museum of art and design, simply does not have the purchase funds to enable it to offer to purchase many of the works that are stopped by the reviewing committee in case they can be purchased by one of the national museums and galleries for the nation.
The Woburn Canova, to which the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, referred, is a case in point. I have already told the Minister for the Arts that the V&G, as the custodian of the national collection of historic sculptures, would be very happy to take responsibility for the Woburn Canova. The V&A would be happy to house it while its original home at Woburn cannot take it, and, if it was decided that it could eventually go back to Woburn, to be responsible for its care and conservation there.
However, the price tag on the Woburn Canova is such that if the V&A were to try to buy it out of its funds we should purchase nothing else for seven years. That is not a price that we can possibly pay. It is not possible for us to acquire an object of that magnitude, in the sense of price, unless we can get help from outside. Outside in that context and for that kind of sum of money means not a private appeal to sponsors but an appeal to the Government for a Treasury grant, perhaps from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Charteris of Amisfield, is due to speak later in the debate. Perhaps he will comment on the matter.
I wonder whether the time may have come when, rather than leave such matters to the initiative of individual national museums and galleries, that is a responsibility which the National Heritage Memorial Fund should take on. Where export licences are suspended the National Heritage Memorial Fund should decide, with whatever expert advice it wishes to take, whether the object should be acquired for the nation. If so, it should arrange for funds to be made available and deposit the object for custody with whichever institution it thinks most appropriate. I doubt whether the noble Lord, Lord Charteris, will thank me for that suggestion.
I should like to make only one other brief point; namely, that the restructuring at the Victoria and Albert Museum which was discussed in a debate in this House in March is going ahead nicely. The organisation is now virtually in place, the senior appointments have nearly all been made and the museum is, I am glad to be able to say, beginning to settle down. It is likely to be a better place as a result. I was glad to see a letter in the Independent this week which suggested that at least one visitor to the museum already felt that that was happening.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Viscount Hanworth
My Lords, the law of treasure trove has its origins in Anglo-Saxon times when it was a kind of fiscal policy to recover bullion for the Crown and to discourage hoarding or secreting of wealth. By today's standards it is an anachronism and some strange legal assumptions are required on the part of a coroner in order to arrive at a conclusion. Objects discovered in the ground are classed as treasure trove only if they have no known owner, which is fair enough, but also if it can be established that the original owner hid them with a view to their eventual recovery. Your Lordships will not be surprised that this is a matter which cannot always be decided sensibly after several hundreds or even thousands of years, and the legal presumptions for doing so hardly bear even a scintilla of common sense.
Perhaps even more importantly, only gold or silver objects may qualify as treasure trove. Thus, many other antiquities, some of great importance to archaeologists—or others which, in many well-known cases, are of great intrinsic value and should be reckoned as national treasures—are, nonetheless, for all practical purposes, unprotected, except by the inadequate law of trespass or the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act. In passing, one might note the unique Romano-Celtic bronzes from a known site at Icklingham in Suffolk which were stolen from a Norfolk landowner and exported to the United States where they have recently surfaced to be hawked around in an unedifying way. They were not covered by the law of treasure trove.
However, the law does not give adequate protection even to gold and silver. There have been several cases where that has been clearly shown. Wanborough, near Guildford in Surrey, with which the Surrey Archaeological Society and, incidentally, my wife were concerned, is perhaps a classic example. Initially, a few Iron Age and Roman coins were found and the coroner's court was informed. Unfortunately, in the proceedings, the location of the site was given in open court. Thieves raided the site by night, removing large quantities of soil for processing. In spite of commendable police activity, an estimated £2 million worth of coins were removed, many of which later turned up in the European markets. I need not dwell on the anxiety and distress caused to the householder and his neighbours.
The point about that incident is that although the police prosecuted for theft several of those who physically removed or handled the coins, almost all the prosecutions failed. That was largely due to technicalities in the treasure trove law, in particular the vexed question of whether or not the coins had been buried with a view to recovery. It was then argued that the precise gold and silver content of the coins had not been determined. Lastly, there is the fact that a decision of a coroner's court is not legally binding in a criminal court.
Changes in the existing law are needed which would, first, widen the scope of items which could be treated as treasure trove. Secondly, they would 1344 remove some of the frankly ridiculous legal requirements—for example, as I have already mentioned, whether or not the goods were originally hidden with an intent to recover them. The world-famous Sutton Hoo burial treasure may serve to illustrate that. Since it did not fit into the law's eccentric mould, it might have been sold piecemeal but for the generosity of the landowner, Mrs. Pretty, who saved it for the nation. Thirdly, such alterations to existing legislation should try to make certain that if archaeologically important finds slip through the loose mesh of the net they are not simply sold off by the finders without museums and others having a statutory opportunity to record and assess them, and to purchase them at a fair valuation if that is thought appropriate.
None of the proposals affect the landowner's rights. In 1982 a Bill passed through all its stages and failed only because it ran out of time. Along the way, the objection which the Government raised was concerned with landowners' rights. I understand that such objections have now largely been overcome.
In February 1988 the Department of the Environment issued a consultation paper and gathered evidence on the matter. It is understood that the department believes there is no hurry to resolve the issue. If that is so, it is an opinion held only by the department, not by the informed public, many of whom maintain that it will soon be too late.
Some speakers may rightly press for the Government to ratify the 1970 UNESCO convention on the illicit import, export and transfer of cultural property. But that can only be valid if we ourselves have a viable law concerning our antiquities, which we do not as yet have.
Finally, we should note that our legal provisions covering portable antiquities are way behind those of most European countries and simply do not compare with those we gave our erstwhile colonies. Frankly, I suggest that, after initiating enormous and, in some cases, dubious social and other major changes, the Government should now use their time in tidying up what they might consider to be smaller but nevertheless important issues.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, over the decades, those of us who are interested in fostering and promoting the arts and our culture have owed much to my noble friend Lord Perth. Today, he has again put us in his debt, both by his Motion and by the speech which he made in initiating the debate. When I first met him in this connection, I was in the anomalous and barely supportable position of being a Treasury Minister with responsibility for art galleries and museums.
I naturally tend to have a somewhat periclean approach to the problem; namely, wishing to foster the arts with due regard to economy. It is on that basis that I venture to ask certain questions of the Minister of which I gave him notice through the Lord Privy Seal. First, can he tell us what is the totality of public funding of the arts? I find it very difficult to estimate with so many different sources; in particular I have no idea what the in lieu scheme 1345 is worth and what the douceur appendage is worth. If he could give us those figures and compare them with a decade ago I believe that we shall be much enlightened.
The second point that I want to make is that I agree strongly with my noble friend Lord Perth and the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, that we should seriously consider admission charges. We should consider them not as though there was a complete dichotomy between free admissions and charges. My noble friend suggested that one way of reconciling these two was to have part of the year free and part charged. My noble friend Lord Armstrong mentioned another way; namely, one weekend day free, one midweek day free and the rest charged, but perhaps one day more highly charged than the others.
We should remember that my noble friend Lord Armstrong reminded us that the admission charges at the V & A were designed to provide for—and were successful in achieving—the opening of the museum on an extra week day. When the matter was debated on a Bill promoted by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, I had the feeling that the Government favoured admission charges but wished to preserve the freedom of choice of the trustees. That seems entirely reasonable, but if so would not the Government be justified in saying: "Here is our grant"—desirably a bit higher than at present—"we will maintain it in line with inflation, but in addition to that we will match revenue from admission charges pound for pound." That would make the trustees consider the matter afresh and seriously.
The third matter I wish to raise—taking it purely as an example—is "the Three Graces", the Canova. I leave aside the question of listed building controls to which the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, referred, and also the rather disquieting report that there is an intermediary in the Cayman Islands which may frustrate every endeavour, I suggest that the advance of a large sum such as that mentioned may well be disinflationary. Retirement of debt is ultimately disinflationary and the Government have done nobly in that respect. It is immediately somewhat disinflationary in that the proceeds are unlikely to be wholly or mainly spent on consumer goods imported from abroad. The same thing could be said—could it not?—of a great work of art particularly if the payment were coupled with a stipulation that the proceeds should be used for conservation of the fabric and other contents of the place from which it came.
I ask the Minister: is that compatible with the Waverley scheme? If not, should not the Waverley scheme be altered in order to provide for it? That brings me to my last point: how far is the Waverley scheme consistent with our obligations to the single European market in 1992? How far is the extremely restrictive scheme of the French consistent with their obligations to the single European market? If the French scheme, as I think, is clearly not consistent, what are the Government doing to put that right?
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Lord Charteris of Amisfield
My Lords, I too am extremely grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for initiating this debate. I hope that he will forgive me 1346 if I correct one thing that he said. He spoke of a painting by Claude which had been shared by the National Gallery and the National Gallery of Wales. It was not a painting by Claude; it was a painting by Poussin, "The Finding of Moses". The National Heritage Memorial Fund contributed £2 million towards its purchase because we thought it a very good idea that the two galleries should share.
The National Heritage Memorial Fund is keenly interested in the question of export controls. I have no doubt that, from our point of view, it would be more convenient if we were much more vicious about it and did not allow anything to be exported. I am not in favour of that. I believe wherever possible there should be a flow of works of art between countries. What we have to do is become a great deal richer than we are: then works of art will flow into this country instead of out of it. It is absolutely essential that the present system—which I approve of—should be made what we all thought it was and provide for an indefinite stop. We have heard a lot about Canova. If we raise £7 million for that, it is not much good if the chap then says, "I am not going to have it".
I should like to add that I am also not in favour of creating a list of 100 or so prime objects. Somebody says, "We will draw up a list and we will never have those exported." That is a bad idea, first, because nobody will agree on what the list should contain. Secondly, if by some great stretch of diplomacy the list is agreed by everybody, the first thing that will happen is that something will turn up which everybody wants to stop being exported and it will not be on the list. So let us not have any of that nonsense.
If the system is to work as it is meant to, it is essential that museums, galleries and the National Heritage Memorial Fund should be adequately supplied with funds. I am a great optimist. During the 10 years that I have had the honour to be chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund we have been treated marvellously by the Government. They have never let us down. The Minister for the Arts has said that the matter of funding for museums and galleries and for the National Heritage Memorial Fund is being considered. I await with optimism the outcome of that consideration. I am full of hope.
It is very important that the National Heritage Memorial Fund should have plenty of money. Apart from helping to buy things, it gives us a very strong position from which to bargain with other people. Noble Lords will be pleased to hear that we have just pulled off a bit of a coup. I do not know whether noble Lords have heard of the Trumbull papers, which are the Downshire archive. Noble Lords will be glad to know that they have been withdrawn from sale and we can take it that they will remain in toto in this country in perpetuity.
On the funding of the National Heritage Memorial Fund—I know that the Government will be generous—there is one thing we must watch. The Government must not be tempted to give us a huge sum of money and say, "Now you have all that. You 1347 will now be a central purchasing agency for museums and galleries." Museums and galleries must be given adequate funding.
There are two reasons why I say that we must not be made a central purchasing agency. First, unless museums and galleries can buy their own items they become fossils. It is therefore very important that they should be able to make purchases. Secondly, looking after movable heritage—museum objects—is only half the function of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. Some would say that much the more important half is dealing with wilderness, mountains, bats, birds, bees, and, above all, country houses and their contents. So please, my Lords, do not make us a central purchasing fund; and please do not be seduced by the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong. The noble Lord was absolutely right to say that I should be very cross with him; I am absolutely furious! We shall make it up—but his is a bad idea and should not be followed.
Another reason why the National Heritage Memorial Fund cannot be a central purchasing agency is that we are not a milch cow. We are either a safety net or a fire engine. We are there to deal with emergencies, not with ordinary run of the mill business.
The National Heritage Memorial Fund is a memorial fund. We have not forgotten what happened to our predecessor, the National Land Fund. It started in 1944–45 with £50 million. It had £60 million left in 1956. The Government said that it was too much and clawed back the original £50 million. That was a bad way to treat a memorial fund.
The trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund will resist any such thing happening again. We have come to the conclusion that we should keep a reserve fund that we shall not invade by commitment unless we have a positive guarantee that we are able to restore the invasion as well as continue with our ordinary work.
That is all I wish to say—except what fun we shall all have with the Canova. I do not know how the cookie will crumble, but it will be fun.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Lord Gibson
My Lords, I am sure that everyone will agree that it has been a very interesting debate for which we are primarily indebted to the noble Earl, Lord Perth. It is not always a pleasure to be placed at the end of the debate for the obvious reason that what one wishes to say has often been pre-empted by other speakers. Nevertheless, on this occasion it is a particular pleasure for me because I follow the noble Lord, Lord Charteris. I can therefore say that in my judgment the best work in the field of the arts that Parliament has done for as long as I can remember was the creation of that fund. Not only is the fund a very good idea but as chairman of it the noble Lord has conducted it extremely well.
Having spent five years in the middle 'seventies dishing out public funds through the Arts Council I am full of admiration for anyone who is doing that to the extent that the noble Lord, Lord Charteris, 1348 has done and who can escape criticism. It requires a dexterity, tact, wisdom, firmness and imagination which are not generally present in large quantities in most people. The noble Lord has all those qualities and we ought to be grateful to him. He has made a great success of the fund. The only criticism that I have heard of it was made by the noble Lord, Lord Grimond, this afternoon in relation to the Picasso.
The other gratitude that I wish to express is, oddly enough, to the Minister, Mr. Luce, who has recently secured—in a climate which is not normally favourable to a great deal of government expenditure—extra funds for the arts which will enable a number of good things to happen and to which the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, referred.
I hate having to whinge, in particular when a Minister has scored a success such as he has recently. However, it would be wrong not to face realistically the problems with which, in spite of these funds, museums still have to contend. If one talks to almost any museum director or trustee about the problems of museums they will almost without exception say that their main problem is the maintenance of the fabric of their buildings; and that neglect over the years has caused the problem now to become so enormous.
I was recently talking to the director of the Tate. He applauded the Government's intention to put the buildings right over the next 10 years. But he pointed out that this year the extra £800,000 towards buildings, even if upgraded for inflation over the next five years, would produce only about £5 million. The estimate is that about £12.5 million is needed just to remedy the worst defects, now, of that not very large establishment. The chairman of the Victoria and Albert Museum has already spoken to us this afternoon about the position of his museum. I spoke also to the director of the museum. The noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong. However, I understood from her that there is need for about £100 million, of which half is to remedy past neglect. One cannot spend such money over a short period. But looking over a lengthy period, that is the sum required to put right what has not been done. That does not apply under this Government in particular. It goes back much further. I hope that it is not a political matter but a national matter in the broadest sense. It is one that must be attended to. We are talking only about basic maintenance: heating, wiring and drains, for heaven's sake, which have an effect on conservation.
Lastly, I hope that any noble Lord who has not done so will read this admirable book by Sir David Wilson on the British Museum. Anyone who is interested in our museums should read it. It is quite first class. One may not agree with all that it says. Many noble Lords may not agree with it on the subject of charges. Sir David is very much opposed to those. However, it explains how the museum works, what it does and what its problems are in an extremely concise manner and with great imagination. I greatly enjoyed it. I commend it to your Lordships.
He states that they need £20 million by 1996 in order to bring the building up to normal good 1349 housekeeping standards, and that it will be extremely difficult to raise the extra money needed simply to strengthen the floors. It is therefore a very serious matter. I am sure that the Government are attending to it. They have made a start but it is no more than that.
That leads me to my main point. It is absolutely right to encourage museums to look to the private sector for funds, but only on this basis: that the Government are responsible for the basic purposes of the museums. Those consist of maintaining the fabric, keeping the objects that we have within the fabric in a proper state of preservation and presenting them to the public, and ensuring that the museums have enough skilled staff to achieve that objective and to keep the galleries open.
On this last point, staff costs are now 90 per cent. of running costs. Staff salaries are determined by the Treasury scales. It seems quite self-evident that the Government should fund their own awards. If that is not done it presents the museums with a very serious problem and galleries have to close through shortage of staff. If the Government will look after what I shall call the basics then it is reasonable for the museums to approach the private sector generally, as they are doing, for acquisitions. They are much helped by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and the Government have made special grants. They have shown willingness to do so in what some of us may have thought was the mistaken case of the Thyssen; it was mistaken only in the context of our other needs.
However, it is essential when talking about the need for money for maintenance that we do not give the impression that we are letting the Government off the hook on acquisitions. We must continue to have the money needed to make acquisitions because museums and nations die if they stop adding to their wealth in this respect. But whatever happens, the first priority is the preservation of the fabric and the objects that we already have.
In money terms, purchase grants have remained the same since about 1980. They now buy only about 57 per cent. in RPI terms. In "art object" terms it is an average of about 25 per cent. In many cases it is about 10 per cent. and in a few it is far less than that. However, the museums have done well in their approach to the private sector.
A few days ago I read of a case in the Financial Times. In spite of my connection with it, perhaps I may call it a normally reliable newspaper. The articles told of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich having restored and refurbished the Queen's House, Inigo Jones's first building, with £5 million from the Government, corporations and charities. But it is now to close from October to April in order to allow corporations to use it for conferences, entertaining, and so forth. It is hoped that that will raise £200,000 a year for the museum. To close the museum to the public for six months a year is a high price to pay for such sponsorship. I hope that that will be carefully weighed by museums which go out for private patronage.
When I was chairman of the National Trust I was pressed by the British Tourist Authority to open 1350 houses during the winter because there was such a demand from tourists who come here throughout the year. We tried to do so, but conservation is a hindrance. One wants objects, particularly textiles, to have a rest during part of the year. They will not have a rest if they are entertaining business clients and conferences.
My time is up so I cannot talk about the stop on the exports of works of art as I had wished. However, I understand that there is a flaw in the present system which the Government are examining. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, referred to the problem and therefore there is no need for me to describe it further. I hope that the Minister will be able to indicate what is in the Government's mind in respect of that matter.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
My Lords, I also thank the noble Earl, Lord Perth. I complain that we should instead have had three debates: one on museums and galleries; one on the export of works of art; and one on the protection of monuments. The latter was so admirably introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, in his maiden speech and supported by my noble friend Lord Hartworth. They are three quite separate subjects and I shall do my best to say something about the first at least. If I have any time left I shall continue.
I share the congratulations which have been offered to the Minister for having found, as he told us, £180 million for the repairs and maintenance of museums and galleries during the next three years. That is a jolly good start. Three things must be done of which that is only one. However, that would have been cheaper if action had been taken earlier, as everyone has always known. The trouble is that the Minister was up against the old Treasury slogan: "Never buy something today if you can pay more for it tomorrow". The money will not now go so far even in real terms. Nevertheless, it is important that such action should be taken.
I am afraid that there are many backlogs lurking around. The noble Lord, Lord Gibson, has outlined a horrifying backlog at the Tate. I was surprised to find that when the National Maritime Museum became independent the backlog was £19 million, and it was pointed out that the museum could not take that on. I believe that £19 million for one of the most glorious buildings in England is an absolute disgrace. However, it is not all down to this Government but 10 years is quite a good slice.
The other two aspects have been talked of a good deal; they are running costs and purchase grants. I shall follow other speakers in saying a word or two about both subjects. Several examples have already been given. The noble Lord, Lord Gibson, quoted Sir David Wilson's excellent booklet on the British Museum. It includes one rather frightening sentence. He states:It is impossible to get away from the fact that museum salaries have been underfunded for years and that the practice must now cease or museums must change their character completely".He goes on to explain how labour-intensive they are. He states that in 1981 the vote for general 1351 administrative expenditure amounted to £1 million over the museum's salary bill. In 1989 it was £1 million under the salary bill.
I shall not continue with the subject because various noble Lords have made clear the difficulty. However, it is fundamental. For example, this year the Tate Gallery's grant was raised by 7 per cent. but the costs increased by 12 per cent. That is a decrease of 5 per cent. plus inflation. The noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, told us the same about the V&A, so the picture is not wonderful.
Several noble Lords have spoken about the purchase grants and I should like to run through them quickly. Since 1979 the grant in real terms is down 30 per cent. for the British Museum; 20 per cent. for the National Gallery; 10 per cent. for the National Portrait Gallery; and 25 per cent. for the Tate Gallery. One would have thought that the grants would have risen at least a little, but there you are!
I now wish to turn to the awkward cases of two of our most prominent museums; the Fitzwilliam and the Ashmolean at Cambridge and Oxford respectively. Indirectly and without any particular wish to do so, Government policy has made their future more insecure than any of the other great institutions. They have no access to the Museums and Galleries Commission for funds and are entirely dependent on their respective universities. In turn, those universities are dependent on what used to be called the UGC which has been severely cut by the Government. I do not speak for all universities, although it is true for most—but these two cannot spare much money for their museums because they wish to concentrate on preserving the job for which they exist—that is, direct education, in its simple sense; and research.
As a result Dr. Jaffe tells me that this year his purchase grant was cut from £8,700 to £2,600. That is absolutely dreadful because it means that he can do more or less nothing. Both museums must close. The Ashmolean is considering the temporary institution of charges but is anxious not to do so. I do not know what the answer is but it is certain that it is not what is now happening.
Two noble Lords have mentioned "whingeing". Those of us who love and wish to support our priceless museums and galleries are sometimes accused of that disagreeable habit. It seems to me that anyone who does not whinge a bit, faced with the problems I have just described, needs his head examined.
I have only a couple of minutes available for the fascinating subject of the export of works of art. My view is perfectly clear. I believe that the present system is about the best you can get—with faults, of course, which can be gradually altered. I believe that every museum and institution should have a purchase grant, and a much larger one that it has at the moment. I regard the National Heritage Memorial Fund as the most important government instrument—though it is not governed by the Government, thank goodness!—of paying large sums which no purchase grant, looking to the future, can itself expect to have. So I am perfectly happy about this situation as it is.
1352 I agree with those noble Lords who have said that they want an indefinite stop, and disagree with those who say that they do not. But an indefinite stop should mean that you have a list, and articles on that list are referred to the export committee to see whether or not they think it should be an indefinite stop. If you did that, my Lords, I think you would get the best of both worlds.
I should like to make one point about 1992. There was a very good debate at a seminar of the National Arts Collection Fund, where M. Perrissich of Brussels originally said the only big change will be that there are no Customs barriers. The director of the National Gallery made rather a good point. He said that there are very few works of art of the very top level. We usually know where they are likely to go, if they do go, and he did not think that the absence of the Customs barriers would be very important. I thought that was an interesting point. I am sure that we should fight to preserve our present arrangements and not feel it necessary to change.
I have one final remark to make if I have time to do so. If the Government are anxious, as they always are, to increase the amount of private support and decrease the amount of public support, it seems to me high time that they looked again at the American taxation system. It would enormously increase the amount given, though it would somewhat decrease the amount of tax. But people hate paying taxes and like to be generous. On that note, I congratulate the noble Earl on initiating this debate.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, I too should like to express my thanks to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for letting us have the opportunity again to discuss the arts in this House. It is probably the one occasion when we are all on the side of the angels. We are all agreed, wherever we happen to sit in the House; and there is not a great deal of bite in the debate except towards the Government, whichever government it may be.
I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, on his extremely interesting and well-informed speech. It reminded me, as did the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, that in 1979, before the election, the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Bill was in the midst of coming to fruition and I was the Minister responsible for it. With the help of the Council for British Archaeology and other bodies, I was trying to get into that Bill something to deal with the possibility of introducing legislation to protect portable antiquities.
The reason we did not make it was lack of time. My department was sure that we would not have time for the consultation period, which is another reason—the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, should not always listen to the department—and that legislation would come along very soon. Of course it did not, and as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said, we are now in 1989 and there has been nothing done about this area. That is the only point I want to make on that aspect.
I should also like to congratulate the Minister for the Arts—it would be rather churlish not to do 1353 so—on his successful negotiations with the Treasury, since we all know how difficult that is. That was also pointed out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, this evening. But I am afraid that it works the same, whichever government are in power. There is something about the Treasury which puts a grip and a stop, almost an indefinite stop, on many of the things that we should like to do and to see money spent on. The Minister pulled off a very good coup on behalf of the museums and galleries.
But—I am afraid that there is a "but" here—almost all the extra money will go to the museums and galleries in London. While the new settlement is good news in South Kensington it is very bad news in Southampton, Southend, South Shields, Leeds, Hull and Glasgow if one is looking at the regional museums outside London. That is because in the next financial year only £10.5 million will go to the regional museums. The figure of £2,830,000 for seven English area museums is a 3 per cent. increase, which really means a cut in real terms next year. So the regional museums are not doing very well out of this; in fact, they are doing very badly.
I often feel—I say it with great respect because I am probably an offender myself here—that we are inclined to concentrate around South Kensington when we are talking in these debates about museums and galleries. Further, the pressure on funding also means that the help of the Museums and Galleries Commission to non-national museums through the capital grants scheme will be cut from £350,000 to £300,000 next year.
A great deal has been said about the national museums purchase grant, with all of which I agree. I particularly agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Charteris, that this should not be a central funding and it must be left to museums; but they must have more money. As has been said, and as was reiterated at the art awards sponsorship ceremony at the National Theatre the other day by Sir Simon Hornby, the chairman, unless the Government give adequate support and are seen to be giving basic support to museums and galleries and all the arts it will not be easy to get sponsors to come along. That is because they want to top it up but do not necessarily want to have to give the basic part of the support.
The freezing of purchase grants since 1985 is quite horrendous, because prices have rocketed to stratospheric heights. The last arts sales index shows that in 1988–89 the increase in purchase prices over 1987–88—this is taken from auction figures—is 82 per cent. So how on earth can the museums afford, out of the money they have, to make purchases that mean anything worth while? The Minister's recent announcement of grant to the local museums purchase fund of £1 million over three years will do very little among so many potential recipients now that we have something like 2,000 museums in England alone.
Several noble Lords have touched on the question of charges. I had not intended to mention that subject, but since it has come up and I have strong views on it I should like to align myself with those who are against charges. That is not just for political 1354 or even moral reasons. First, I believe that the public should have free access to museums and galleries as they have throughout history, and that it should be possible for people to visit occasionally for 10 minutes or quarter of an hour and not feel that, as they are paying, it is not worth their financial while, unless they stay for a couple of hours.
Secondly—and I believe that this is mentioned in Sir David Wilson's book which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, and my noble friend Lord Donaldson—if charges are made, it will cost £16 for each visitor because of the extra time taken and the extra staff needed. That is what is happening at the Natural History Museum. To process people through the British Museum without charges costs £6 per visitor. Therefore, before the trustees of the museums make a decision to charge, they should take into consideration the way the attendance figures fall. That happened at the V&A. I hope that they will also take into account that at is not cost effective to do something which in any event I believe is basically wrong.
I agree with everything which has been said about the Canova statue. I only add that if that had happened during the time I was the Minister responsible for the heritage, I would certainly have listed the statue. I did not find the reasons for the Government not listing it very convincing. They are honest enough to say that there is no legal reason why it should not be listed; but they then bring in the point that it had been moved once, and been on exhibition. I believe that is a bad reason for not listing an item. The temple was built for it. I do not say that everything within a building should be automatically listed, even if it is of great value. Each case must be looked at individually. However, this seems to me a case that if ever something should be listed, this is it. I hope that when the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, gets together with his working party, he will try to draw a distinction between these different areas.
I was very interested in what the noble Earl, Lord Haig, said about the composition of boards of trustees and some of the recent appointments made by the museums. I very much agree with him. The problem is that museums realise that there have been a great many changes; that there has been the introduction of new technology; and there is also the expansion of people. I feel that many of them have gone overboard on this: they feel that there must be a certain number of businessmen in order to deal with those matters. With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, the position at the V&A was that the trustees were mostly businessmen and industrialists, and it was hard to find an art historian among them. There must be a mixture of museum people and businessmen; but there must not be too many on one side.
That brings me briefly to my last point—that is, the importance of training and career structure in museums. Sir John Hale, as chairman of a working party on museum professional training and career structure, brought out a report in 1987. I gather that that is now being taken up. The Government have given a grant of £100,000 (which will not go very far) until the next financial year. I am sorry that I 1355 did not give the Minister notice of this matter, but I should be grateful if he can tell me when that is likely to begin, what will be the financial situation and if he can give any more information about it.
I understand the organisation was set up in June and has been given industrial body status. It is charged with setting up proper museum career structures. That does not mean a dilution of scholarship in the museums. That would be entirely contrary to what I and most of us want from museums. However, it is important that curatorial experts and other staff in descending order from that have managerial and presentation training. That is something which could have a very exciting future and be of tremendous value to our museums and galleries because we have rather acted on the basis that the skill needed was a skill in a particular field, but skills were not needed for running the museum, financing, presentation—and what may be a small point but which is one of the bees in my bonnet—proper labelling.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, I am grateful, as are other noble Lords, to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for providing your Lordships' House with the opportunity to have such a wide-ranging debate. Before I say another word, I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, on his excellent maiden speech and the firm views expressed in it. That carries on a great tradition. I had the privilege at Hampton Court yesterday, of viewing the King's Staircase and seeing various paintings described by Horace Walpole in a different age,as ill as if he had spoiled it out of principle".That was his view of what is now considered a great work of art.
As your Lordships will appreciate, the matters which we have been debating span the responsibilities of my right honourable friends the Minister for the Arts and the Secretary of State for the Environment. While arts and heritage are rightly seen by many people as a seamless robe, I propose, with your Lordships' leave, to divide my response broadly into two categories, starting with matters to do with the national museums and galleries, exports, acceptance in lieu and related arts topics, and then moving on to deal with archaeology and the built heritage. The noble Earl will therefore forgive me if I respond to his various remarks at different points in my speech.
My right honourable friend the Minister for the Arts is to be congratulated on his three-year settlement to 1993 announced in November. The increases that he announced demonstrate the Government's commitment to the arts and heritage, and will do a great deal to strengthen the partnership between public and private sectors in this area.
Over the three years 1990–91 to 1992–93 this settlement gives an increase of 24 per cent. to the arts budget as a whole and 27 per cent. to our national museums and galleries. Within these sums provision for the building and maintenance 1356 programme of the national museums and galleries has been given special emphasis. Over the next three years some £180 million of central government funds have been allocated for this purpose.
My right honourable friend, in his speech to the centenary conference of the Museums Association at York in September, declared as one of his key aims to get the buildings into first class shape over the next decade, and committed the Government to playing a leading part in this great national task. This is a commitment of major importance for our great museums and galleries and must be the right priority.
The Minister is looking to the private sector to play its part whenever possible, in particular with the refurbishment of galleries where it is being so helpful. However, even on the basic fabric there has been an immediate and generous response. In November the property company MEPC came forward with a £1 million gift for the structural repair and maintenance of Sir John Soane's Museum. The Government are providing a matching contribution of £1 million. I am confident that further responses of this kind will be forthcoming.
I recognise the concern expressed in this debate that no increase has been made in the purchase grants of the national museums and galleries. My right honourable friend the Minister looked at this very carefully in the light of the priority concerns put to him by institutions. He concluded that for the time being all available increases for the national museums and galleries should be allocated to building and maintenance and to the care and presentation of their collections. He has invited the institutions to look again at their programmes and overall resources to see if there is scope for increasing the sums available for purchases. That is the position for the national galleries.
For the local museums and galleries, the November announcement provided for an increase of £1 million over the three-year period in the local museum purchase grant fund. This may well be able to help the university museums, to which the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, referred, with the Ashmolean particularly in mind.
I also welcome your Lordships' appreciation of the fine work done by the National Heritage Memorial Fund under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Charteris of Amisfield. Noble Lords have asked the Government to commit more resources to the fund. I can give an assurance that we are looking at its future requirements for 1991–92 onwards. The fund has an excellent and consistent record of protecting our heritage. We wish that to continue undiminished in the future. This is in addition to the acceptance of the in lieu scheme and private treaty sales, which are making a contribution to the preservation and public display of works of art in this country. In the meantime, noble Lords have highlighted cases of immediate concern, given the restrictions on funds for the purchase of works of art.
The Canova statue, mentioned by nearly every noble Lord, has been described by many as one of the most important artistic and national treasures. The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works 1357 of Art gave it a rare "star" to highlight this and to indicate that every effort to save it for the nation must be made. My right honourable friend announced yesterday that the Government are prepared to extend the deferral of an export licence decision for another three months. He will be looking to many organisations, both public and private, to raise the £7.6 million needed to purchase it. Reference has also been made to the "the Three Graces" statue in connection with listed building controls. I propose to refer to that in a few minutes' time.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, asked whether, if the Canova were to be bought for the nation, it would be possible to attach strings to the purchase money; for instance, requiring it to be spent on the maintenance of the fabric of Woburn Abbey. In fact, he asked whether such a principle could not apply more generally to private treaty sales. I have to say that such an arrangement is not possible under the law as it stands, nor would my right honourable friend and I consider it appropriate to fetter vendors in this way. In any case, it could not apply to the Canova, because that would not be a private treaty sale.
I was as pleased—as I am sure were other noble Lords—when the noble Lord, Lord Charteris, was able to inform the House that there had been a successful conclusion to the acquisition of the Trumbull archive for the nation.
I turn now to the various issues raised in relation to our export controls on works of art and other collectors' items. I begin by praising the work of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art. This committee of experts, under the chairmanship of Jonathan Scott, a highly respected author of a standard work on Piranesi, is supplemented for each case by three independent experts in that particular field. Consequently, it goes about its task with a professionalism that is second to none.
But the noble Earl, Lord Perth, has drawn attention to several problems in the export field. He is most concerned about the need to find a replacement for the "indefinite stop", to which both he and many other noble Lords referred. My right honourable friend shares this concern. In a debate in another place on 15th June he announced his commitment to finding a solution to this problem, and I hope that it will be resolved in the near future.
The question of valuations was raised. Doubts were expressed as to whether the Government were being adequately advised. I can give the House an assurance that we are satisfied that in all cases involving the expenditure of public money we have access to advisers who are acutely aware of their responsibilities in this regard. We owe the expert advisers in our national institutions—and here I include Scotland and Wales—a very great debt for their work.
The reviewing committee has always been concerned to see that a fair market price is agreed between the parties. This can be a straightforward matter, but in other cases—I include such pictures as the Turner which was mentioned—it is necessary to have an independent arbiter to settle any dispute. Likewise, the National Heritage Memorial Fund 1358 takes its duties on price very seriously; so too does the Museums and Galleries Commission when advising Ministers with responsibility for the heritage on acceptance in lieu cases. We have considered the suggestion to establish a permanent panel of valuers, but we believe that our present system of drawing on experts as and when required is the most effective.
There was considerable criticism that the price of the Turner seascape "Folkestone" was not published at the time of the announcement of the Minister's recommendation to defer a decision on the export licence application. My right honourable friend shared this concern and consequently announced that in future, if an object is placed under a deferral, following consideration by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, the price will be published. It is hoped that this change will help public collections in their fund raising, especially where they launch a public appeal.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, raised the question of 1992. We are actively working up proposals which may form the basis of an export regime post-1992. This will protect our heritage while at the same time enabling the market to operate freely and protecting the rights of owners. The issue which will face all European Community member states is the disappearance of national Customs controls. We hope to find a formula that is acceptable to all of us in the Community.
Noble Lords have raised the issue of the management restructuring at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a subject which was debated in this House in March of this year. The Government continue to have every confidence in the director and trustees of the museum, and believe that decisions on the museum's management structure are very much a matter for them. I understand, however, that the proposals for restructuring, approved by the trustees in principle last January, have now been worked out in detail in consultation with staff. The main objectives of the new structure are: to strengthen scholarship and research; to improve public services and access; and to strengthen the education service. The new structure will therefore enable the museum to discharge all of its responsibilities more effectively. It was great news to hear the confidence of the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, in the success of the plan he has led through.
I now turn to matters within the field of responsibility of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, spoke about the problems of unreported archaeological finds and the adequacy and scope of the law of treasure trove. This matter was also drawn to your Lordships' attention by the noble Lord, Lord Walpole. As many noble Lords will be aware, my department and the Welsh Office issued a joint consultation paper in February 1988 seeking views on how far the present arrangements for reporting and recording of archaeological finds posed a problem, and if so what should be done about it. The review sought to address the arrangements for finds falling outside the definition of treasure trove and was not specifically 1359 concerned with the workings of the law of treasure trove, as the noble Viscount suggested. The noble Earl will, I believe, be aware that my department received more than 100 responses to the paper and that the Welsh Office received about 20. These came from a wide range of respondents—local authority interests, landowning interests, metal detecting groups, museum and archaeological bodies and a number of private individuals.
We have been most impressed by the thought and care which has gone into the preparation of many of these responses, and it has not been easy to reach an answer which balances all of the different views expressed. Part of the problem lies in the increasing professionalism of the 20th century archaeologist. Nineteenth century and earlier antiquarians made sporadic finds without worrying unduly about the precise context of the stratigraphy. And many metal detectorists are following in the tradition of that enthusiastic amateur. Although their activities may fall some way short of the highest scholarly standards, that might be a problem best dealt with by education, and it would be unduly cumbersome to set up a bureaucratic machinery to deal with it.
Noble Lords mentioned the two specific cases of Icklingham and Wanborough, both of which show that the real problem lies with deliberate looting for commercial gain of objects of artistic or archaeological value which could add considerably to the knowledge of our past. These cases also highlight the difficulties involved in protecting sites, even when they are statutorily scheduled, and of policing any system.
The noble Earl suggested that the solution might be to follow the practice north of the border where the law requires that all newly discovered ancient objects, whether hidden or lost, belong to the Crown. This would ensure that all valuable archaeological finds are reported. The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, made a similar suggestion—that the scope for treasure trove should be extended to objects other than those of gold and silver, and that the test of deliberate concealment should no longer apply.
There are doubtless, as always, very good reasons why the law is different in Scotland, and indeed these proposals were considered very carefully in the context of our review. The conclusion we came to was that they would go too far. There is a valid public interest in some archaeological finds, but not all; and there is a valid public interest in the knowledge represented by those finds, but not to the extent of requiring nationalisation of finds in England and Wales.
We do believe, however, that there is a good case for strengthening the law in England and Wales in ways which stop short of those more drastic proposals. I am happy to tell the House that my right honourable friend is minded to seek, after the usual consultations, a suitable legislative opportunity to amend the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 to strengthen controls over finds from scheduled sites; that is, to make it an offence to remove any finds from the site of a scheduled monument, whether or not they were discovered by 1360 means of a metal detector. He also intends to promote improvements in the administration procedures not involving legislation and dealing with non-scheduled sites—one such option being a code of practice.
I referred earlier to Canova's statue, "the Three Graces", and a number of noble Lords have referred to my right honourable friend's decision—of which I informed the House in a Written Answer on 7th December—not to take enforcement action under listed building legislation to seek the return of the statue to Woburn Abbey.
The controversy surrounding this statue illustrates some of the difficulties of the listed building legislation. I am sure that noble Lords on all sides of the House would agree that the system of listed buildings of special architectural or historic interest, and of controlling works to such buildings, is a keystone of our system of protecting the heritage. But we need equally to make sure that our controls strike the right balance between providing appropriate protection without imposing unreasonable constraints. The problem becomes particularly acute when the point at issue relates to items which many people would consider to be chattels.
Buildings under the listed building legislation include any object or structure which is "fixed" to the building. Whether any particular item is considered to be fixed and so part of the listed building, will depend on the facts of the case. As noble Lords will be aware, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State took the view, based on legal advice, that the statue, "the Three Graces", should be treated as part of the listed building; and since no listed building consent was sought for its removal, it was open to either the local authority or to the Secretary of State to use enforcement action to seek the return of the statue.
However, enforcement action—whether taken by the local authority, or the Secretary of State—is a discretionary power. Each case must be looked at on the facts, and in the case of "the Three Graces", both the local authority and the Secretary of State, after careful consideration, decided, for the reasons given, not to take enforcement action. It is important to recognise that the decision was taken on the particular merits of the case.
The listed building provisions in the planning Acts go back to the 1940s, and were designed to protect buildings, including many non-structural features which contribute to their special interest as buildings. Features which are objects of intrinsic beauty and value in their own right and which physically may be capable of being detached from a building may nevertheless, as in the case of "the Three Graces", be found to be part of the building which is listed and thus subject to listed building controls. It is not unknown, however, for there to be differing advice on whether such objects are, or are not, fixed to a listed building and thus within or without controls.
Of course, we are not talking merely about the past. We are also talking about the present and the future. Fanciful though it may sound, it is in principle perfectly possible for a contemporary 1361 collection of sculpture to be caught if it is fixed to a building which is subsequently listed. At a stroke the owner could find the value of his collection reduced to nothing or, at any rate, a matter of considerable speculation and uncertainty.
Let us consider the position of the owners of a valuable object—like a statue, or some other work of art—on which inheritance tax has been paid. What happens if that object is subsequently listed? Is the tax to be refunded and index-linked.
The position of trustees is even more invidious. Similarly, with insurance. If an object which has previously been insured in its own right is subsequently determined to be part of the fabric of the house, what happens to the policy? Alternatively, could insurers refuse to provide separate cover for objects which are fixtures in law?
These, and many other questions, are questions which we would like to explore; and that is why my right honourable friend considers that the whole issue of controls over moveable fixtures in listed buildings needs examination, and why he has proposed to consult widely with interested persons before giving any guidance and before considering whether there is a case for amending the legislation.
I am aware that there is a wide range of opinion on this issue and we shall naturally be paying very careful attention to all the views that are expressed, from every viewpoint, in response to this consultation. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State said in announcing his decision that he very much welcomes the decision of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, to call a meeting next month of expert and interested parties to discuss the issues raised by "the Three Graces" and other recent cases. The House will have noted with interest what the noble Lord had to say this afternoon. The results of this initiative will, I am sure, provide a most valuable input to my right honourable friend's review of the matter and will open the way for further consultation.
I should emphasise to your Lordships that this review is not something which has been forced upon us. Quite the reverse. Well before "the Three Graces" became a matter of public controversy, my right honourable friend, other honourable friends and myself became increasingly convinced that there was a problem with many ramifications which needed to be tackled head on. That is why we have taken this initiative. Work is now in hand on a consultative document which my right honourable friend aims to issue within the next two months or so.
I should like in conclusion to respond to the remarks made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, about the difficulty of estimating the totality of public moneys that go into the arts and heritage, and the various categories in which they fall.
Your Lordships will not, of course, expect me to reel off detailed figures here—I am advised that there are problems in constructing a consistent run of figures over more than a few years—not least because of the various changes to the range of heritage activities and responsibilities which the Government have funded over the past 10 years 1362 and which make year-on-year funding comparisons misleading. For example, in 1984 English Heritage was established; in 1986 the GLC's historic buildings responsibilities transferred to English Heritage. However, I can give the House a broad indication which I believe points to a very satisfactory achievement by Her Majesty's Government since May 1979.
In 1979–80 central government funding for the arts and heritage in England was about £190 million in cash terms. In the current financial year this total will have risen to some £560 million—a real-terms increase of over 40 per cent. During the 10-year period the heritage share of the total has risen from 18 per cent. to 22 per cent. If the noble and learned Lord is agreeable, I will write to him with a more detailed analysis, which I hope can also bring in the other parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, I think that noble Lords will agree that a 40 per cent. real-terms increase is no mean achievement. However, I quite accept the point made by noble Lords as regards specific areas, especially the price of art itself which has risen considerably faster than that. We believe that the basic underlying trend demonstrates—that is, if demonstration is required—that the Government care about the arts and about our heritage. Moreover, contrary to the impression which is sometimes given, the Government have not starved them of funds.
I hope that my remarks will have brought to the notice of the House the concern that my right honourable friends share to see that this trend continues and, in particular, my right honourable friend the Minister's desire to be flexible over the question of how national museums and galleries deploy their resources.
I conclude by thanking the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for providing us with the opportunity to discuss this most important matter today.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, before the Minister sits down I wonder whether he remembers that I did in fact ask him several questions about the Museum Training Institute. However, if he does not have the information now perhaps he will undertake to write to me on the matter. I merely make this request because he made no mention of the matter in his reply.
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, I do not have the figures available but I shall of course write to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, on that point tomorrow morning.
§ 7 p.m.
§ The Earl of Perth
My Lords, I have two minutes left. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, was correct. We should have had three debates. I thank all your Lordships who have taken part in the debate. They managed most skilfully to keep within their time limits and made invaluable contributions with regard to the arts and the Department of the 1363 Environment. I am sure that we are all grateful to the Minister for his speech. He gave us two things which, while perhaps not being 100 per cent. what I wanted, are most encouraging. One relates to the indefinite stop. Something will happen in the near future. I hope that will be that Canova goes one way or the other. In other words, the Government have three months in which to think about the near future. It will be a disaster if they do not mean to take enforcement action.
We were lucky to hear the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, on the subject of treasure trove about which they know so much. It is great to know that legislation is on the way after three years. Let us hope that the Government can find an early slot. We shall look at the legislation carefully and perhaps make it better than is proposed. I again wish to thank everyone, especially the Minister for his excellent winding up speech. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.