HC Deb 09 December 1952 vol 509 cc37-8W
Sir E. Keeling

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what action he proposes to take on the Report of the Committee on the Export of Works of Art.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I would like first to thank the noble Lord. Lord Waverley, and his colleagues on the Committee for their admirable Report. I propose to accept all their recommendations, except possibly on a few subsidiary points of which I need mention only two. First. the treatment of archives may have to be reconsidered when, very shortly, the Master of the Rolls has received the report of a committee which has long been considering the conservation of archives. Second, the limit of £1,000 below which the Committee propose that export licences should not be refused on grounds of national importance. When the requirements of exchange control are taken into account, it may be wise to fix a lower figure, subject to later review. Before I decide these points of doubt, they will be discussed between all the interests concerned on the advisory council which I am setting up.

The Committee recommend that the annual purchase grants-in-aid of the national collections should be substantially increased. At this critical time, I cannot afford to give as much as I should like. But something must be done. I propose, in next year's Estimates, to allow an increase of 25 per cent. where this is needed. This will cost rather less than £20,000 in all. I shall look to the Trustees of the collections concerned to guard these extra funds carefully for the purposes envisaged in the Report.

My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will announce in due course some relaxations of export control in this field. They will not be the same as the limits recommended in the Report, since the needs of exchange control also have to be taken into account; but they should help exporters considerably.

I have appointed Professor Lionel Robbins, C.B., F.B.A., to be Chairman of the Reviewing Committee and of the Advisory Council which I am setting up, in accordance with the Committee's recommendations.