asked the Minister for the Arts what representations he has received regarding (a) the completeness of the information made available to the chairman and all members of the Museums and Galleries Commission in their consideration of the proposal to accept in lieu Stratford Mill by John Constable, (b) the role of the commission in the valuation of the painting and (c) the commission's recommendation concerning the recipient of the picture; and if he will make a statement.
I have received five letters concerning the acceptance in lieu of tax of the Constable painting "The Young Waltonians", also known as "Stratford Mill"; each letter raised some of the points raised by the hon. Member.When this painting was offered to the nation I received advice from the chairman of the Museums and Galleries Commission, which included independent valuations given by two separate expert advisers to the Government. They both confirmed the valuation of £10 million. I have full confidence in the advice which was given to me by the various parties, but the final decisions on acceptance and allocation were, of course, mine. This was the most valuable item ever accepted in lieu of tax, and it was clear that speed and discretion were essential. The enhanced provisions announced by my predecessor in 1985, allowing for calls on the Contingency Reserve, have enabled the acquistion of this major work of art, central to our heritage. It has been allocated to the National Gallery, in accordance with the strongly expressed wishes of the executors of the deceased owner, and is already on public display there.