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Clause 2—(Use Of Part Of Apsley House As A Museum, Etc)

Volume 440: debated on Friday 25 July 1947

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Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

This Clause relates principally to the Ministry of Education, which is taking charge of a very large number of useful objects, every one of which, I feel sure the Committee will agree, should be accessible to the public. The complaint was made, however, in the very interesting speeches made on the Second Reading of this Bill on 27th June, that there were other places which might be brought in, such as the Rotunda at Woolwich. Since that date, there has been time to go into this matter, and I think it would be an advantage to the Committee to know whether any arrangements are being made for housing in Apsley House, which formally belonged to the Duke of Wellington, any other relics which may come under the care of the Government. May I ask whether any arrangement is being made to collect any interesting relics of this kind, because I do not think that, at the moment, they are available to the public. I hope that someone will help me to obtain an opportunity for the public to see these things. Are any arrangements being made, and have the Government thought the matter out?

I take it that is a matter of administrative arrangement under the powers vested in the Government.

Surely, considering the notice which was given of this in the speech on Second Reading, the Minister of Education might by now have gone into the matter, and been in a position to tell us what sort of policy he is going to adopt. I am only trying to help him. I do not think that the matter should have been left all this time without something being done. Would the Gov- ernment view in a friendly way the possibility of collecting any further relics, and would they be housed in this building?

I am quite satisfied with Subsection (2, a) of this Clause, but, with regard to Subsection (2, b), I want this building reserved for the purpose for which it was acquired. I would point out that, in other cases, Government Departments have secured the possession of public buildings, and have used them for other than their original purposes. I have in mind the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland which, by the munificence of the late Sir John Finlay, was presented to Scotland, and which, for the last four years, has been used as the headquarters of the Identity Registration Office.

I must point out to the hon. Member that he is now getting out of Order.

Thank you for your guidance, Mr. Beaumont. I gave that example to show that the case was sufficiently strong for preventing this building from being used for purposes other than those for which it was provided. I take it that its use as an office is definitely excluded, but I shall be glad to have some satisfaction on that point.

Whatever is done under this Subsection is, of course, subject to the consent of the Duke.

There is one other point on which I should like some information, and that is with regard to the use of this building for the purpose of entertainment. I believe everyone agrees that it should be used for such a purpose, but, as I gather that the number of objects of art is very large, and that they cannot all be kept there, would it not be an advantage to put them in some place where they could be seen by the public? May I have some information as to public receptions there? I should also like to have a further answer about the objects of art, and to know if, for instance, it would be possible to lend any of them to, say, Scotland or Belfast from time to time, so that more people may have an opportunity of seeing them.

No decision has yet been taken about the distribution of these works of art, or exactly where they will be housed. That matter can be dealt with by question and discussion at a laser date. With regard to the first point raised by the hon. Gentleman, it is intended that, as the Government are short of accommodation for entertainment purposes at the moment, the house should, on occasion, be used in that way.

I should like to thank the hon. Gentleman for his effort to give an explanation, but I must add that I very much regret that he has obviously not given much thought or care to t ais matter.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill. Clauses 3 to 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.