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Theatre Museum

Volume 889: debated on Tuesday 8 April 1975

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1.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement on the future of the Theatre Museum.

I have nothing to add at present to my reply to the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke) during the debate on the motion for the Adjournment of the House on Friday 21st March. —[Vol. 888, c. 2182-6.]

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a degree of urgency in this matter? In the debate to which he has referred he gave an assurance that he would give urgent consideration to it. Everyone agrees that the Flower Market would be a suitable place for the Theatre Museum and that it offers far more space. Therefore, will the hon. Gentleman make an early decision about this matter?

As I explained on 21st March, I am in touch with the Greater London Council and with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment about the possible use of the undercroft of the Flower Market at Covent Garden as alternative accommodation for the Theatre Museum and possibly at a later date for a theatre institute. I assure the hon. Gentleman that as soon as I am in a position to make a statement after the consultations have been carried out I shall make one.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the feeling in the art and theatre world that it is desirable to house the Turner Exhibition in Somerset House and the Theatre Museum and theatre institute in the Flower Market is well-night unanimous and exceedingly strong? Will he do his utmost to get the changeover effected as soon as possible?

I am aware of the strength of the views which have been expressed, but perhaps they do not entirely take account of all the difficulties and problems involved. Nevertheless, the future use of the Somerset House Fine Rooms would be a matter for discussion with the national museums and galleries, but only if Somerset House were not to house the Theatre Museum.

May I support the plea of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) and ask the Under-Secretary of State to give much higher priority to these important matters? Will he call a conference of all interested parties so that we may have the best of both worlds—a worthy Theatre Museum in Covent Garden and a permanent home for Turner's pictures at Somerset House?

It is a question not of a conference or of priorities but rather of ascertaining the factual situation, which is what we are about at the moment. I am not in a position to authorise any change of plan until it is established that the Theatre Museum could open in Covent Garden at least as early as it could at Somerset House and that the Government could finance any adaptations needed, including any other capital or continuing costs which might be involved. Until the factual situation has been firmly ascertained between all the parties concerned, I shall not be in a position to make a further statement.