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Embassies (Works Of Art)

Volume 466: debated on Monday 27 June 1949

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asked the Minister of Works whether he is aware that many British Embassies and Legations are without any examples of British art, whereas the Governments of many other countries have appreciated the cultural importance of thus exhibiting some of their best national pictures abroad; and whether he will give our diplomatic representatives greater facilities for selecting works of art suitable for the decoration of their Embassies or Legations.

Numbers of pictures have been lent by the Trustees of the National and Tate Galleries for British Embassies and Legations, and the Tate Gallery have recently offered a considerable number. In addition, a small annual sum is at my disposal for purchases. Certain private owners have also generously provided pictures. But there is still a great need for examples of British art for Embassies and Legations, and I would welcome offers to lend works of art for this purpose.

Despite this access to pictures, is it not a fact that these Embassies and Legations are very short of pictures; and will the right hon. Gentleman do something to encourage the supply of better pictures?

Yes, Sir, and I hope this Question and answer will assist in that. At the same time, I would point out that 75 pictures recently offered by the Tate Gallery are at present under consideration for allocation to various Embassies.

Could these Embassies be supplied with photographs of the latest mock-Tudor dining cars, in order that all should have evidence of the idiocy of which a nationalised undertaking is capable?

In allocating pictures to Embassies, will the Minister take into account the different climates, so that the pictures shall not be damaged?

Are we to understand from the right hon. Gentleman's reply that he does not propose to take any additional steps to meet this great need; and if that is the case, will not he reconsider the matter?

I have already said that at the moment 75 pictures are under consideration for allocation, additional to those already distributed.

I trust the right hon. Gentleman will not overlook the canvases of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill).