asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts how many persons employed in the Office of Arts and Libraries have direct or indirect responsibility in connection with the administration of the National Heritage Memorial Fund: and if he will make a statement.
The National Heritage Memorial Fund is an autonomous body and its administration is undertaken by its staff. However, a small percentage of the time of three Office of Arts and Libraries staff is given to administrative issues associated with the fund.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. Although I appreciate that the fund is an autonomous body, does my hon. Friend accept that when the fund receives special applications for grants to save what, by any criteria, are important examples of Britain's great architectural heritage, the Department should sympathetically consider continuing to provide extra financial assistance to the fund so that it may discharge its duties for the benefit of our people?
As my hon. Friend knows, the Government made a special allocation of £25 million earlier this year to enable the fund to help to ensure the future of Weston Park, Kedleston and Nostell Priory. The fund's negotiations on those three major properties are well advanced. As to my hon. Friend's broader point, the fund's annual report states:
"We have good reason for confidence not only in this Government's commitment to the objectives of conservation, but in their willingness to provide adequate funds to achieve those objectives."
Is one of those three officials responsible for monitoring section 16 of the National Heritage Act 1980? If so, will he sort out the nonsense that has arisen over the indemnity arrangements for the Kessler art exhibition?
I have seen the letter which my hon. Friend wrote to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on 2 July. I am sorry that the Tate gallery had apparently re-interpreted some rules which previously applied. We are in discussions with the Tate gallery, and I hope that the matter can be satisfactorily resolved.