§ Mr. Robert Cooke
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action will be taken by the Government following the publication of the report to the Paymaster-General on provincial museums and galleries.
§ Mrs. Thatcher
The Government welcome the report of the Committee on Provincial Museums and Galleries as a thorough study of a complex problem. The report, which is being published today, is particularly useful at the present stage of the reorganisation of local government and comes at a time when there is increasing public awareness of the value for the national heritage of the collections in local museums and galleries.
The Government will give the report and the public discussion which it is hoped will be stimulated very full study in the context of the national resources which can be made available for the arts.
The Government have already been able to provide additional resources to meet some of the recommendations. They have increased to £400,000 in the current year the fund administered by the Victoria and Albert Museum to assist purchase by local museums and galleries in England and Wales, and have set up a new fund of £150,000 to be administered by the Science Museum to assist purchases in the technological and scientific fields. Parallel arrangements have been made in Scotland, where two funds of £25,000 each are to be administered by the Royal Scottish Museum. In addition, grants to area museum councils in Great Britain have been increased to £132,500 in 1973–74 in recognition of the important part these councils play in assisting the care and conservation of local collections.
The Government will discuss with the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries and others concerned the development of the area museum councils on the lines suggested in the report, taking into account such resources as are 391W likely to be available for the arts as a whole.
The Government do not favour the proposed new fund for housing local museums. The essential responsibility for housing their museums must rest the local authorities concerned. But the Government are prepared to consider with them whether some form of central Government assistance, within the arts programme, would be justified in special cases of more than local significance.
Questions of pay and grading of staffs must be considered in the context of general counter-inflationary policies.
The Government hope that all museum authorities will give the report careful study, and has already indicated in Circular 9/73, issued on 13th June, how museum resources might be reviewed in the area of each authority. Here again they hope that authorities will give particular attention to their requirements for conservation and to what educational and training provisions are needed to meet them. The Government will endeavour to provide within the resources which can be made available help for national museums and galleries to increase their aid to local museums and galleries for care and conservation and for other purposes.
The Government hope that education authorities will give particular study to the section of the report and the recommendations on the educational services which museums can perform.
The Government recognise that special circumstances exist in Scotland and Wales, as indicated in the report, and will give particular consideration to the development of the musuem services there.