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Museums and Galleries: Funding

Volume 688: debated on Monday 15 January 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What plans they have for the future funding of museums and galleries.

My Lords, DCMS funding for sponsored museums will increase to £336 million by 2008, a real terms increase of 28 per cent since 1997. Renaissance in the Regions funding will increase by 40 per cent next year to £45 million. A key outcome of this investment is free entry to national museums, which has led to a 40 per cent increase in visits. Funding for museums from 2008 is being considered as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. However, his department covers the two widely different activities of sport and the arts. What effect will the increasing cost of the 2012 Olympics have on government spending on the arts?

My Lords, there have been recent rumours that the cost of the Olympics will have an impact on arts funding. As I said in response to a question last week, there is an overrun on funding for the Olympics and various methods are being looked at to bridge the gap, but it is unlikely that the arts will suffer as a result.

My Lords, there is no question that one great success of the Government in this area has been the Renaissance in the Regions programme. In areas where it has been fully funded, according to the Museums Association, attendance by schoolchildren has increased by 120 per cent. The Minister mentioned the forthcoming funding, but only three out of nine regions are receiving full funding. Can he assure the House that the whole of the funding will be forthcoming and not adversely affected by the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review?

As I said, my Lords, £147 million was allocated to Renaissance in the Regions, which, as the noble Baroness said, has been a huge success. Government investment rose from £10 million in 2002 to £45 million in the next financial year. My view is that the initiative has been such a success that its funding is very likely to continue.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that, as we sit here today, detailed discussions are going on at the DCMS with the museums and galleries, including my own—I am chairman of the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory—to suggest cuts of 5 per cent, which will equate to 8 per cent or more with inflation. Can the Minister assure us that that will not take place?

My Lords, I cannot assure the noble Lord that that will not take place because it is part of the next spending review, and the Treasury has asked all government departments to look at possibilities for reduction, as it will be a quite tight review. The DCMS recognises that there are funding problems, particularly for acquisitions, and it has established a forum for national directors, which met once last year and is due to meet in a few weeks’ time, to discuss innovative ideas for raising more money for museums and galleries.

My Lords, my noble friend rightly took pride just now in describing the substantial increases in funding the Government have provided for museums and galleries. Does he agree that there can be no case for not at least sustaining present levels of grant in aid? Does he also agree that, since the National Heritage Memorial Fund was created to honour men and women who have died in the service of our country by enabling museums and galleries to make important additions to our national collections, it would be gracious if the Government, having committed themselves some time ago to increasing their grant to the fund to £10 million this year, would now go even further and set out a path to doubling that grant to £20 million, thus bringing the fund much nearer to its original value?

My Lords, I am sure that my right honourable friend Tessa Jowell will take note of my noble friend’s last point. Obviously it would be difficult for me to stand here and agree to a doubling of that sum.

Although things are quite tight, the income that the national museums are now generating for themselves is encouraging. For example, for every pound the Tate gets in grant in aid, it now generates 67p. There has been a 73 per cent increase in total self-generated income from 1997 to 2005.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that while we can congratulate museums and galleries on the increase in the numbers visiting them, future generations will not have the benefit of those collections unless more money is put into the care of collections? Will he assure us that sufficient money will be allocated during the Comprehensive Sending Review for the proper care of collections?

My Lords, I cannot give that undertaking. I have spent a great deal of my life in the arts world, and whatever money goes into, it is never enough. However, we recognise that we have to watch this area very carefully, and I am sure that the Government and the Wolfson Foundation, which has been very generous over the years, will continue to ensure that the fabric of our museums does not decline.