rose to call attention to the policy to grant free entry to national museums, any subsequent assessment of the policy and any further policies the Government have to broaden the profile of those coming to museums and galleries; and to move for Papers.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, sometimes Governments get policies spectacularly right. The decision to restore free entry to our national museums in 2001 was one such example. The move may be likened in the field of the arts to the Labour Government’s striking move to grant independence to the Bank of England. This leitmotiv policy, buttressed by lottery, millennium and increased revenue funding in the arts, led the Museums Association to say that it is one of the things that has enriched Britain in the past 10 years. We owe particular thanks to, among others in your Lordships’ House, the noble Lord, Lord Smith, the then Secretary of State, who hopes to join us later this afternoon.
The figures speak for themselves: the number of museum visits has doubled, the number of overseas visitors trebled, and the number for art galleries has scarcely lagged behind. The profile of those who have come into our museums since 2001 is as telling. There has been an increase of 79 per cent in children’s visits, 54 per cent for black and ethnic minorities, and 21 per cent for C2s, Ds and Es. There are some who say that the policy has principally favoured the middle classes—but I rejoice if their numbers, too, are swelled. Why not? Later on I will look at those who are still under-represented and at the almost three in five of our citizens who still walk past our museums and never take a second look.
Why is it important to fill our museums and art galleries? Not just because they are magnificent repositories of our history and culture, not just because they calibrate our pulsating engagement with the wider world, not just because they instil an appreciation of all the arts, nor simply because they support an industry that employs many people and stimulates revenues from the plentiful overseas visitors—nor just because museums such as the V&A and the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery have aided the second phase of our industrial revolution by fostering the study of innovation and design—but principally because museums open the Pandora’s box of the mind and blow the winds of the imagination that swirl around and enrich every one of us, whether child, student, parent or pensioner, for the rest of our lives.
But free entry brings some problems in its wake. Some privately run museums have experienced consequential drops in visitor numbers, especially when cash-tight schools inevitably divert to free museums. Other museums which lie near to free national museums are likewise embarrassed. My own local Ellesmere Port boat museum, now part of the National Waterways Museum, has suffered from its proximity to Merseyside’s outstanding national museums, currently revelling in free entry and in their year as European Capital of Culture. The boat museum feels doubly aggrieved. It is a national museum but does not enjoy free entry. It also reaches a unique audience—the very people the Government otherwise espouse as part of broadening the museums’ visitor profile. The boat museum interprets Britain’s industrial past and yet promotes the modern leisure uses of our former working canals. The unique and unparalleled National Football Museum at Preston likewise deserves free-entry status. It may be the first museum that a visitor ever visits but its pre-eminent collections and interpretations ensure that it will not be their last. I invite my noble friend to say what the Government might do to help, perhaps by granting private museums a free week’s entry as they propose to do with theatres, or through direct aid for educational visits.
The most testing consequence of the successful free-entry policy has been the need for increased running and maintenance resources arising from the press of increased numbers and from the increased and very welcome lift in activities prompted by free entry. Not only has the independent charity, the Art Fund, alluded to the challenge; so, too, has the Commons 2002 DCMS report. In wholeheartedly upholding the policy, it nevertheless thunders that,
“since the Government have called the tune, it must keep paying the piper”.
I ask my noble friend to respond.
Whatever else, museums need certainty about continuity of funding. The wonderful stimulus given to the museum world by free entry has also, meritably, seen an explosion of ideas on income generation, the undertaking of imaginative reinterpretations of permanent collections, an increased number of exhibitions, and investment in both staff and infrastructure. Compare our museums with those in France, where wonderful collections are hampered by ancient entry fees and poor interpretation. It is no wonder that the French are now studying the free-entry arrangements in the United Kingdom.
Another germane but troubling development is the charge now being imposed on visitors to our great historical churches and cathedrals. As congregations fall these museums too must command better support from the public purse, as well as a rethink of their flanking role at the heart of established communities.
We must build on free entry and renew our efforts to entice the almost three in five of our citizens who do not see museums as part of their daily lives. Groups typically under-represented include people from the black and minority ethnic groups; people from social groups C2, D and E; those among the disabled who are hampered in fully appreciating our museums; the geographically isolated, typically found in rural areas or regions such as the East Midlands which are under-endowed with museums; and business people whose work never persuades them to ponder that a museum might help their small businesses. I was recently heartened to discover that the British Library now has an active programme to help small businesses fill the gaps in the marketplace by the provision of knowledge and ideas. How logical that is, once someone has thought of it. Curators, too, get a buzz from such cross-fertilisation of ideas. After all, many small museums are akin to small businesses.
Children should perhaps command our greatest focus because they are the museum-goers of the future and will repay heavy investment now. The welter of hands-on technologies that now bestrew our museum spaces stand in sharp contrast to my early experience of some of the wonderful museums in Oxford, where the prevalent philosophy was more hands off than hands on. It was easier to play ducks and drakes on the River Isis outside than penetrate the wonders of the Pitt Rivers within.
Surely Roy Clare, head of the MLA, is right in saying that retelling the human stories underpinning the artefacts displayed in our museums should always be paramount. An exhibition at Greenwich of the beautiful amulets worn by plantation slaves still needed the human story behind it to be explained, thereby drawing in a new audience interested in learning about Britain’s engagement with the slave trade. All our museums’ collections should highlight the human as well as the academic.
Sometimes, it is something simple that draws people in. We who are museum literate seldom pause outside a museum to assess how welcoming or forbidding are its portals, but we need to be sensitive to the mental barriers that keep people out. Let me offer an example of imagination and the taking of risk. A visit to Christchurch Mansions in Ipswich revealed an exhibition of paintings from the permanent collection chosen by Ipswich Town footballers, with a short appreciation by the players of their favoured picture accompanying it. Not only had the exhibition brought in the footballers, playing on unfamiliar away ground; it also brought in young fans ever anxious to pick up tidbits about their favourite forward. It also brought in the parents who—and how familiar a tale is this?—had never entered the museum on their doorstep.
The disabled, too, are not infrequently rebuffed. But here, too, an imaginative response can transform matters. I am very happy to support Vocaleyes, a charity which helps the visually handicapped to enjoy the theatre by supplementing the dialogue heard on stage with judicious contemporaneous description of the action. Now, Visualeyes is doing something similar in our art galleries and museums, enhancing the experience for the visually handicapped. Nor is the description service confined to the museums’ paintings or artefacts, which themselves may provide a tactile experience for the visitor. Visualeyes also provides a tape, to be listened to before the proposed visit, describing the physical layout of the museum and even the nearby restaurants or bars—all designed to enhance the visitor experience.
I conclude with a series of suggestions and questions. Could my noble friend give more details about the proposed 2008 government paper on developing a national museums strategy? What areas will it cover, and what are its objectives? What proposals might come forward on collecting accurate data on those who come to our museums—and on the many who do not come, to find out why they stay away? How will such research be done without creating paperwork for museums that wish to focus on curatorial duties and welcoming the public? To what extent will the 2012 Olympics be embraced by such a review?
What more can HMG do to encourage our curators to perform the double role of looking after valued museum artefacts and interpreting them for the visiting public while always emphasising the human story that lies behind nearly all such artefacts? Surely such an approach is indispensable if we are to cast the net wider in search of those who might interest themselves in our outstanding collections. Does my noble friend agree that museum boards and staff need to redouble their efforts to persuade a sometimes reluctant public that museums are not just the preserve of the privileged, white middle classes? To that end, should not the governing boards of museums and galleries themselves more accurately reflect the UK’s mixed profile? And with respect to staff, should we not do more to encourage both existing staff and new recruits to curating to expand their professional horizons, perhaps by exchanges between national, regional and local museums—and, indeed, with those abroad, especially in Europe and America? A practical start might be more Clore fellowships, which are currently oversubscribed by 16 to one.
There is also a case for improving salary levels and pay structures in the profession. Unlike nurses, the staff may not save lives, but they certainly improve them. Will my noble friend devise strategies to secure a better balance between national, regional and local museums and galleries? At the moment there is a postcode lottery whereby a Londoner is privileged to the disadvantage of country dwellers and those who live in towns short of museums. An active programme of travelling exhibitions, plus outreach London galleries such as the wonderful Tate Liverpool, would mitigate that disparity. It is also true that interesting and varied travelling exhibitions have enormous potential for encouraging new audiences as well as repeat visits.
One beneficial though perhaps counter-intuitive aspect of the free-entry policy has been the spur to entrepreneurialism within national museums. For instance, the Tate now generates 60 per cent of its own income. How does my noble friend propose that we build on this entrepreneurial—indeed, risk-taking—approach and cascade down good ideas to other, slumbering museums and galleries? What do the Government consider are the possibilities of using digital technology and the internet to bring in new visitors? This is clearly a point of entry for many young people who are more adept at surfing online than standing in line outside unwelcoming museums.
Will the Government provide more cash for museums, perhaps linked to rewarding risk-taking, to match their general thrust of building stable communities? After all, the best local and national museums reflect established and developing communities. Greater use of these public places for meetings unrelated to the arts would be another way to bring people into museums. Why not, for instance, use galleries to perform citizens’ ceremonies for those who have pledged to adopt Britain as their home country?
The generation of income for our galleries and museums leads me to the fertile field of encouraging donors—the subject of an excellent address last week by Minister of State, Margaret Hodge. Only 4 per cent of charitable giving is steered towards the arts, and two-thirds of that stays in London-based institutions. We need to do more to bring the worlds of business and the arts together. But how about explaining to boardrooms that concern for the arts can be their business? Government can promote this by dusting off the Goodison report and devising a conducive tax regime. They should be more forthcoming in acknowledging beneficial giving through the honours system or, indeed, by encouraging museums to use donors’ names to adorn the institutions they have supported, as has football entrepreneur, John Madejski, at the Royal Academy.
In conclusion, the Government have blazed a magnificent trail in their enlightened policy of according free entry to our national museums. As the Prime Minister tellingly said, our party is best when it is at its boldest. Let us build on this magnificent start. I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, to whom we are greatly indebted for introducing this debate, I approach the subject of museums with a particular knowledge of Liverpool. As well as having been the Member of the European Parliament for Liverpool following the first direct elections in 1979, and in that capacity having helped to secure regional funding for the then very small maritime museum on the dockside, I subsequently became a trustee of the then National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, now known as the National Museums Liverpool, and I continue to serve on its development trust. Again like the noble Lord, Lord Harrison—perhaps not today but on previous occasions—I rejoice in the fact that Liverpool has been designated European Capital of Culture this year. That designation has greatly helped to give a focus and a deadline and additional funding for some of our long-term projects in relation to the museums and galleries.
In that respect, I point in particular to the transatlantic slavery gallery within the Merseyside Maritime Museum, to which the noble Lord referred. It was reopened and extended in August last year with perfect timing to coincide with International Slavery Remembrance Day and the special recognition of the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in this country. I also point to the World Museum Liverpool. Anyone who has been there and watched the faces of children going around the exhibits, which are interactive and very attractive to young people, will have seen what a terrific success it is. In addition, there is the Museum of Liverpool Life, which is still being worked on.
Museums can be magic. I believe that they are a vital part of our educational process and, indeed, of our cultural life, particularly in the current dialogue on intercultural activity. The fantastic improvements in display and attractiveness and in the use of technical methods to put messages across are absolutely mind-boggling. Whenever and wherever I travel in the world, whether for business or pleasure, one of the first things I do is to find out how to access the local museum so that I can begin to feel more at home and more in sympathy with the environment in which I find myself.
Perhaps I may go back to the many debates and Parliamentary Questions that we had in your Lordships’ House in the 1990s on the subject of free admission to museums, when we sought more government support and funding. Then, Liverpool had, and I think still has, the only national museum outside London, and admission was free, except for special exhibitions. However, in part because of the VAT issue—your Lordships may remember that it meant that, without charging for admissions, museums could not reclaim on their VAT expenditure—we were very much out of pocket. Very reluctantly, as trustees, we decided to make a modest charge in order to be able to reclaim that substantial VAT figure. We made the best possible use of season tickets, family tickets and multiple tickets as well as making special arrangements for schools and special interest groups. Interestingly, once the charges were administered, at the beginning attendance at some of the smaller and less well known locations went up. There are eight different parts to the museums and galleries in Liverpool and people obviously thought they would get the best value possible out of the admission ticket they had paid for. Eventually numbers flattened out.
I was delighted when the Government decided in 2001 to give additional financial support to enable National Museums Liverpool as well as the other national museums in London to revert to a free-entry policy. The noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, as well as the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, before him, was very much involved in this successful process.
Widening access by skilful marketing and ever more attractive display techniques has, as well as the free entry, led to dramatic increases in numbers, especially of schoolchildren. The fact that the national curriculum encourages schoolchildren to attend museums as part of their coursework has been an additional advantage because, once someone is used to going to a museum, they will increasingly go to a museum somewhere else which may not be on their doorstep. By the same token, the in some cases costly requirements of access for disabled people are often not thought about when considering the running costs of museums and galleries but are vital, especially where the museum’s collection is housed in an old and historic building.
Turning to wider horizons, to see how people cope in other countries, I think that it is vital that museums’ policy should have an international flavour because co-operation between museums, exchanges of exhibits and so on can very much improve displays in any museum. It also encourages us to remember that we have a common cultural heritage in certain parts of the world; I refer in particular to other European countries. Can the Minister give us any comparative data on national museums in other countries? Tourists such as myself sometimes have to pay very high admission charges there, whereas tourists in this country visiting our national museums have free access in the same way as everybody else. I do not know whether any study has been done on this but I know that, in the Council of Europe, there is a move to encourage free admission to museums on the basis of the valuable contribution they can make to international understanding and good will as well as to education in general.
I, too, will be very interested to hear about the Government’s strategy for the future of museums because of the importance they have in our society. Raising the profile of museums and their collections can also be greatly helped by the international award system. I would like to mention in particular the European Museum Prize because, as a member of the parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe, and as vice-chairman of that institution’s culture and education committee, I have been very involved in the award of that prize. Your Lordships may be aware that that prize is awarded annually. This year’s winner is interesting; it is the Arctic museum in the most northern part of Norway—north of the Arctic Circle—which seems appropriate in this International Polar Year, given all the issues of climate change on which we are focusing. This country has won the European prize from time to time. The National Conservation Centre in Liverpool won about seven years ago. It is brilliant not only at providing the much needed skills and services for conservation and preservation, but at giving access to the public to see how its conservation work is carried out without interfering with the conservation work that individuals are carrying out.
Just over a year ago, the Churchill Museum in the Cabinet War Rooms was awarded the European prize. Everyone who has been there will realise that it was an obvious candidate for the prize not only because of its subject—the war in Europe—but also because of the way the new technology and other displays make it so easy to follow and to go into any aspect of that period in depth. That brings me back to the subject of this debate: free access. When I went to the Churchill Museum with a few overseas friends whom I had invited to see that splendid museum, I was horrified to find how high the entry fees were and to be told at the end of the information on the headphones that the Cabinet War Rooms, which are part of the Imperial War Museum, receives not a penny of government funding. The Cabinet War Rooms is obviously coping very well with the situation because its numbers are going up. I look forward to hearing the Government’s future strategy for museums and would like to know whether they have any plans to encourage museums for which there is no question of direct government finance to help and support sponsors or benefactors who would be prepared to provide funding. If we are agreed that the cost of admission affects the number of people who feel able to go into some of those museums then something must be done, certainly about the Churchill Museum. I look forward to hearing from other speakers in this debate and, especially, from the Minister about what further plans the Government have and in what other ways they intend to support museums other than the national museums.
My Lords, I join in the thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for the opportunity to debate this matter. Gone are the days when museums and galleries were empty, echoing places where solitary contemplation of arts and artefacts was the name of the game. Indeed, I sometimes wish for a bit more solitude. According to a survey published last year, which involved asking 500 people where they would take someone they were trying to impress on a first date, 65 per cent chose a museum or gallery. I am not sure how scientific a survey that was, but it is the case that when visiting a museum or gallery one is now part of a crowd.
The statistics support the experience. Visits are up by 87 per cent since 2001, thanks to the Government’s policy of free admission to DCMS-sponsored museums. Here we also have to acknowledge the part played by the noble Lord, Lord Smith, as well as that played by the noble Lord, Lord Howarth. Capital investment due to lottery funding and the Renaissance in the Regions programme, which has transformed regional museums and galleries, has meant that many more people are able to benefit from the enlightenment as well as the pleasure that these institutions offer. Of course, this in turn benefits society in furthering people's understanding of the communities, of the nation that they inhabit and the world as a whole.
Britain has historically recognised this. The British Museum was the first museum in the world. Created in 1753, it was free of charge and its intent and aim was to foster knowledge and understanding—to explain that instead of dwelling on what makes us different we should see how we overlap. The British Museum continues to achieve that. A year or so ago, the building of Durga attracted large numbers of Bengalis, both Hindu and Muslim, from throughout the country—different parts of the community in the United Kingdom understanding how they fit together.
Thanks to Renaissance in the Regions, this is not just happening in London. I was told about the reaction of a visitor to the reopened, redesigned Weston Park Museum in Sheffield recently. The email stated that,
“the people responsible at the Museum have tried to be as inclusive as possible with all the different communities in Sheffield and the outcome is fantastic as no group feels excluded from visiting. Sheffield is a very mixed race city and the museum has got it ‘spot on’!”.
The bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade last year led to events and exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout the country which involved working and engaging with new audiences. But despite these achievements, as the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, said, there is still a problem with what he referred to as the “profile” of those who enjoy our museums and galleries. Certain groups still feel excluded. As Sir Brian McMaster said in his recent report:
“One of the biggest barriers to audience engagement is the notion held by many that the arts are simply not for them. The ‘it's not for me’ syndrome is endemic and conspires to exclude people from experiences that could transform their lives”.
A breakdown of those who visit the museums and galleries in increased numbers shows that many are tourists and many are schoolchildren on repeat visits—both to be welcomed. Less happily, numbers from lower income groups and ethnic communities are going down.
We on these Benches have always felt that the Government’s system of targets—of attaching funding to the meeting of certain quotas—was not the way to involve wider sections of society. The Government insisted that it was, but their own figures show that this approach has failed. We have long advocated a system where excellence is rewarded rather than the fulfilment of targets. Therefore, we welcome Sir Brian McMaster's recommendations for a move from measurement to judgment and the return of artists and practitioners to the heart of both funding and governance decisions.
Then there is the problem highlighted by a recent MLA audit of a lack of diversity among the workforce in the cultural sector. Ensuring that those who work for an organisation represent all the sectors of the community it serves must surely lead to connecting with a wider, more diverse audience. That extends to those who sit on the boards of all museums and galleries. To quote Sir Brian McMaster again:
“Artists, practitioners, organisations and funders must have diversity at their core”.
The Government could and should be acting to effect change in this area.
I cannot make a speech at the moment without referring to the Cultural Olympiad, which will run alongside the Olympic Games and aims to encompass thousands of local and regional cultural events as part of our nationwide celebration. This will be a unique opportunity for museums and galleries across the UK to expand audiences, inspire the young and broaden the profile of those who visit them; but it needs money. We have suggestions about where extra money can be found for lottery good causes, and consequently for the Olympiad. One is a gross profits tax for the lottery, and the other is a crackdown on lottery-style games, so-called “grey” games which, through imitation, dupe people into spending their money on games other than the National Lottery. We believe that those proposals could raise significant amounts.
We applaud free admission as a hugely successful element of the Government’s cultural policy; but it comes at a price. For those who now provide free access as well as for those who still charge—the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, referred to them—free entry is possible only through additional public funding. The compensation received by those museums and galleries that used to charge for entry is inadequate. On top of their loss of income from admissions, they face increased running costs due to a greater number of visitors, which is the Catch-22 of success. Grant-in-aid to English national museums and galleries will increase from £302 million this year to £332 million in 2010-11, which is an increase only slightly above inflation. The fact is that costs have risen at a rate higher than inflation. That does not just mean a problem with infrastructure and salaries, but with the fundamental issue of acquisitions.
Despite the fact that DCMS’s document Understanding the Future states that collections,
“need to remain dynamic resources”,
acquisition budgets have fallen dramatically. The Art Fund museum survey 2006 found that 60 per cent of museums were unable to allocate any money at all to collecting. Its survey of international collecting showed that UK national museums lag behind both America and Europe when it comes to the money that is available to buy new works of art. British collections are currently world class, but their position is under threat. Museums in the UK are struggling in particular to build contemporary collections of objects representing the world of the past 30 years. That brings me back to the diversity point and the need to engage new audiences.
As Mark Jones, director of the V&A, said:
“Museums need to be a creative resource. We cannot do that if we are not able to acquire recent work. The British population is changing, and museums reflect back to society what it is. It would be a great shame if museums drifted away and ceased to reflect the society that surrounds them”.
As the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, said, is it not time to reconsider the tax incentives suggested in the Goodison report that would allow donors to offset the gross value of gifts of works of art against income tax? Would that not encourage the philanthropy that the Minister of State, Margaret Hodge, has recently been calling for?
Twice in this speech, I have mentioned the Renaissance programme for the regions, and we on these Benches congratulate the Government on its success. Investment in Renaissance has seen visits by priority groups to regional museums increase by 30.6 per cent since 2002. Is that not reason enough to commit to fully funding it across the regions and to introducing mainstream funding as enjoyed by the national institutions, so that long-term planning can be put into effect?
Tony Travers from the LSE, author of the report Museums and Galleries in Britain, which analyses their economic, social and creative impact, estimates that their economic contribution is in the region of £1.5 billion a year,
“adding up to a significant sector, not a peripheral pastime”.
He believes that they are a crucial part of our future economic prosperity:
“Museums and galleries offer both a major internationally traded service … but also underpin the creativity upon which future high value added economic activity is likely to be based. The storehouses represented by these institutions will encourage people in this country to use their creativity and talent to develop new services, products and even manufactured goods. Nations without such repositories of inspiration have less chance of success”.
Our museums and galleries are worth investing in. Across the country they are contributing to regeneration and social cohesion. They are playing a role in the creative and cultural economy through employment and inspiration and the opportunities they give to learn and exercise the imagination.
My Lords, I shall not dilate on the splendours that have been achieved by making possible free entry to the national museums and university museums and galleries—the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, spoke handsomely about that. We are greatly indebted to him for tabling the debate and for his imaginative speech. I would like to draw the House’s attention to a policy that is less widely appreciated and celebrated: Renaissance in the Regions. I was glad to hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, had to say about it.
My noble friend Lord Smith of Finsbury, as Secretary of State, and I as Minister responsible for museums in the period 1998 to 2001 were painfully aware that museums in the regions and local authority museums in particular were poor relations of the national museums that DCMS funded and where we were able to make possible free entry. My noble friend Lord Smith invited my noble friend Lord Evans to investigate the problem and make recommendations to us and he produced his report in 2001. The noble Lord found much heroic good practice, but the scene he examined was one of widespread depression, poorly funded museums and falling numbers of visitors. In many museums displays were stale, the routines of documentation and conservation were lagging, museums were working in isolation from one another, their staff lived off miserable salaries and had poor career opportunities. Many museums in the regions were lacking vision and self-belief as sources of inspiration, places of learning and community spaces.
The renaissance in the regions strategy enabled funding to be distributed through some 41 museums and museum services in nine regions. Leading museums were identified as hub museums in each region and became centres of a system of collaborative museums. What has happened as a result? There has been a 55 per cent increase in visits to those museums, a 19 per cent increase in the number of schools making visits to museums and 30 per cent of school visits have occurred in the 20 per cent of most deprived wards. Over 30 per cent of visitors—if your Lordships will forgive me for using this jargon—have been drawn from the C2/DE socio-economic groups, and black and ethnic minority groups and disabled people. By 2006-07 13 and three-quarter million visits had been made to the hub museums—more than 800,000 children had been on school visits to them and a not inconsiderable number of those children brought their families back on subsequent visits.
Research has shown the value of museum education to improving literacy and performance in schools. Renaissance in the Regions money has paid for family learning programmes, outreach to schools, work with children’s centres and the under-fives, recruiting additional staff for curatorial, conservation, education and marketing work, training and development of staff, some development of collections, some refurbishment of galleries and new displays in them, special exhibitions including touring exhibitions, networks to share specialist knowledge and expertise, research and interpretative skills and some digitisation.
Three and three-quarter million pounds has been made available for non-hub museums and within them some 4,000 staff have been supported in their professional development. New partnerships have developed between the national and the non-national museums. To give one example, shortly a bust of the Emperor Hadrian is to be loaned by the British Museum, first to Tullie House museum at the western end of Hadrian’s Wall and later to Segedunum in the Tyne and Wear museums at the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall. It is wonderfully appropriate, but such an event could have been only a dream 10 years ago.
The hub partnerships have become increasingly confident and effective as regional centres of excellence. This has been a remarkable achievement by the MLA and the regional museums. I also congratulate the DCMS on being able to ring-fence the budget for Renaissance in the Regions and protect it against inflation in the latest Comprehensive Spending Review. By 2010-11 the budget for the programme will be £48.7 million, and by then nearly £300 million will have been spent through it since it began in 2002-03.
Wonderfully helpful as it has been, however, Renaissance in the Regions is no substitute for an adequately funded local authority museum service.
I shall pause for a moment to mention an important national scheme, which falls under the MLA’s budget but which is not part of Renaissance in the Regions. I am referring to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, a national voluntary scheme to ensure the recording of archaeological finds made by members of the public, particularly by metal detectorists. I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, will speak shortly. I dare say that he will have something to say on this subject, and I believe that the House will accept as authoritative what he has to say on archaeology.
Before 1997 a kind of anarchy prevailed. Amateur archaeologists and metal detectorists roamed the country in search of trophies and there was no system for reporting and recording. I pay tribute to Dr Roger Bland of the British Museum, the progenitor of this scheme, who was seconded to the DCMS and advised on the establishment of the scheme. The Portable Antiquities Scheme is led academically and administratively by the British Museum and employs 39 finds liaison officers across the country. By 2006 a code of practice for responsible metal detecting had been agreed between detectorists, archaeologists and landowners. As of now, more than 317,000 objects have been recorded in the largest such database in the world. There is worldwide scholarly interest in this scheme.
Finds liaison officers do not confine themselves to recording finds. They reach out to engage a wider public. Forty-six per cent of visitors to Fabulous Finds Days in 2005 had never visited the museum before, and 47 per cent of them were C2/DEs. The journal British Archaeology has described the scheme as,
“perhaps the most successful project to engage a wider public with the practice of archaeology anywhere in the world”
and the Minister, Margaret Hodge, has described it as,
“an incredibly successful scheme”.
The scheme, however, is in serious difficulty. It was somehow overlooked by the DCMS in the Comprehensive Spending Review. The MLA’s budget for those programmes that are not part of Renaissance in the Regions is due to decline sharply. The Portable Antiquities Scheme’s budget is to be frozen in 2008-09, with the consequence that three posts are expected to be lost. The years 2009-10 and 2010-11 are an abyss.
Roy Clare, the excellent chief executive of the MLA, is trying his best to find a way to salvage the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and has proposed a review. There is a view within the MLA that perhaps some synergy could be found between Renaissance in the Regions and the Portable Antiquities Scheme in its outreach and educational work. But nobody supposes that its core functions should sensibly form part of Renaissance in the Regions.
The British Museum is willing to take the Portable Antiquities Scheme on to its budget and accept full responsibility for it, but it needs a sufficient dowry to preserve the integrity of the scheme and its proper effectiveness. That seems to be the right solution and I hope that the DCMS, the MLA and the British Museum will arrive at a satisfactory agreement.
I would otherwise just note that Early Day Motion 566, which expresses anxiety about the predicament of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, has now been signed by 196 Members of Parliament. While EDMs are perhaps not the most accurately calibrated gauge of parliamentary opinion, that is unquestionably a significant expression of view, which I hope the Government will heed. I hope that they will heed our voices here too.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme issue illustrates a wider systemic difficulty. Nationally we have an incoherent, fragmented and still grievously underfunded system of support for our museums. The national museums themselves are not without their difficulties, as the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Hooper and Lady Bonham-Carter, have already said. Funding for museums comes from central government, the lottery, local government, some from Europe, museums’ own earned income and fundraising, trusts and foundations, corporate giving and individual philanthropy. It is good that there should be a plurality of sources of funding, but we need a concordat about respective responsibilities.
The welfare state model of funding for culture, the assumption that everything important will be paid for by the taxpayer, will no longer work—if, indeed, it ever did. The respective responsibilities of all who can produce funding need to be negotiated, established, promulgated and maintained. That is a challenge for the Secretary of State for Culture. The Treasury and the DCMS need to agree definitively what is the role of central government and then perform it, predictably and reliably. We should have a debate on the appropriate role for local government. We certainly cannot drift on like this. I would like to see a statutory duty on local government, such that every citizen will live in an area where a local authority has an obligation to maintain a museum service. That is the case where public libraries are concerned, but the experience of public libraries also teaches us that it is not much use willing the end if you do not will the means. Without adequate funding, the promise is hollow.
Should there, then, be a discrete cultural component of revenue support grant? Perhaps. Alternatively, should the same money form a fund to be distributed by the MLA in response to bids by local authorities? If that were to be the case, the MLA would become a true funding council. The question of whether to fund free entry for local authority museums would be one for the Government to face and answer one way or another. The difficulty about making the MLA a true funding council is that the national museums have never wanted it to be, and the DCMS has so far agreed with them. The MLA is a funding council in respect of Renaissance in the Regions, and its role could be expanded. This question needs considering. At present, speculation is rife that in three years’ time there will no longer be an MLA. What would happen to its functions? The Government should either sack it or back it; I think it should back it.
The concordat should clarify the responsibilities of the private and voluntary sectors. If grant in aid is going to fall short—and of course it is—the Treasury must allow incentives for private giving. That has now been recognised by the Government in France.
We are all particularly indebted to Sir Nicholas Goodison for his incisive and visionary thinking in this field, and to the Art Fund for its tenacious campaigning along similar lines. The Government say that they have implemented 29 of Sir Nicholas’s recommendations and are keeping the rest under review. Sir Nicholas has indicated his priority recommendations. He believes that we should support lifetime giving of works of art and culture, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, mentioned. He believes that the most effective stimulus to new giving would be the ability to offset the gross value of the gift of a cultural object of pre-eminent quality against income before payment of tax. He also tells us that there should be urgent reforms to gift aid; there should be reform of the complex and restrictive regulations on so-called benefits offered to donors; and there should be reforms to allow larger donors of cash gifts tax relief on the entire amount, not just the upper rate.
With improved incentives to charitable giving at what would be very little cost to the Exchequer, certainly in the field of the arts, and a new consensus on the complementarity of public expenditure, lottery expenditure and philanthropy, we should encourage local authorities to convert their museums into charitable trusts limited by guarantee. More local authorities should be emboldened to follow the example set by Sheffield and York. Yet local authorities are hesitant. Transferring their museums into trusts does not mean disowning or privatising them. Local authorities would still appoint trustees.
The gain would be local museums liberated from bureaucracy and the endless demands for cost-cutting, such that by the time the overheads have been paid for—and overheads are often shrinking because staff are dwindling—there is no money left for activity. We would have local museums with new boards of trustees, including people with leadership and business skills, newly energised, confident and increasingly self-sustaining. I hope that local authorities will see this as a positive move. Meanwhile, the Government, through Renaissance in the Regions, should give grants to assist local museums to be more professional in fund raising.
The HLF will remain a great force and a major partner in the Olympics period. I understand that it has already provided £1.2 billion to 1,800 museum projects, including £141 million for acquisitions and £860 for construction and refurbishment of buildings. It will still in the future have £180 million a year to give and an important part of that could go to museums, which is a wonderful prospect.
Neil MacGregor speaks of a national collection. There are more than 2,500 museums and galleries in the United Kingdom. Without prejudice to this glorious diversity, the challenge for DCMS leadership is to draw the disparate realms—the realms of the national museums, the local museums, university museums, the armed services museums, and the independent museums, and the realms of the National Museums Directors’ Conference, the Museums Association, the Universities Museums Group, the Association of Independent Museums, and indeed English Heritage and the National Trust—into a more coherent system with proper funding opportunities for all and accepted patterns of mutual support and responsibility. The Government have promised us a strategic document on the future of museums. I hope that in it they will set out a truly a national vision for our museums.
My Lords, it is a matter for real satisfaction that the debate introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, is, in one sense, a celebration of what our national museums and galleries have achieved and of the Government’s success in encouraging that achievement by supporting the policy of free admission. Let us not forget that that policy was unflinchingly pioneered by the trustees of the British Museum over many years and was vigorously advocated by the Art Fund. Here, I must declare an interest as a trustee of the Art Fund.
Britain’s standing in the world of culture, the visual arts and material culture is undoubtedly very high indeed. It has been enhanced by the achievements of our millennium celebrations; by the construction of the British Museum’s great court with its wonderful dome, and all the facilities and access, which have been made easier in the British Museum; by the National Portrait Gallery extension; and, not least, by the great success of Tate Modern, as well as Tate Britain. When we are talking about broadening access, what a pleasure it is to go to the Tate Modern, in particular, on any day and see the hoards of young and youngish people—not just school parties or tourists, but people mainly of a young age range—and the notable ethnic mix really using that facility.
It is astonishing that contemporary art, which used to be a rather arcane field, perhaps difficult of access, has become one of immediate access to a very large segment of our population. The success of the Turner Prize is perhaps an element of that, which of course has been facilitated and sponsored by the Tate. So it is no surprise or coincidence that British sculpture holds an unequivocally high position in the world today. That is not for just the agreeably wild shores of Brit art, but also for sculpture of a more traditional—in today’s terms—nature, as expounded or as demonstrated by some of our really great figures of an older generation, such as William Turnbull or Sir Anthony Caro.
Another more problematic area, quite apart from the issue of bringing a wider segment of Britain’s population into museums, is in the field of acquisitions. If we are to maintain our standards, we have to ensure that our museums continue to make important acquisitions. I have four questions for the Minister. It is true that the committee on the export of works of art does a good job in putting a stop on, or advising the Secretary of State to delay, the export of works of art of importance. It is a great satisfaction that Turner’s “Blue Rigi” was secured for the nation through a national campaign last year.
My first question is: are we doing enough in the field of contemporary art in particular? I had the wonderful experience of going to the Royal Academy of Arts this morning, paying my admission fee—I have no objection to that—and seeing the extraordinary collection mainly of two Russian collectors, Shchukin and Morozov. In one room, you can see paintings today by Matisse, Picasso and Gauguin, and, in the next room, by Cézanne, which were accumulated in the first decade of last century. They exceed by far the totality of this country’s holdings of paintings by those artists over that period. It is lamentable that our national collection in modern art of the first 50 years of the 20th century is weak and threatens to be weak also in contemporary art of the 21st century. The Art Fund has developed a scheme, Art Fund International, where it has set aside £5 million to aid galleries in this country to acquire contemporary art and the beneficiaries will be Birmingham and Walsall, Bristol, Eastbourne, Glasgow and Middlesbrough. That is a step in the right direction that I hope noble Lords will approve. But are we doing enough to secure contemporary art? I am interested to hear what the Minister will say.
My second question echoes that posed by the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport: what about the tax regime? As the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, said, should we not have a tax regime that genuinely favours the acquisition of major works of art by our national and regional galleries and museums? Can the Minister really argue that we have one? I am interested to see whether he tries, but I will be very interested if he will tell us that the Government are taking seriously Sir Nicholas Goodison’s proposals and other such proposals, which certainly need to be implemented, if we are not to continue to fall behind in our national acquisitions.
My third question, and I feel fairly optimistic about the Minister’s answer, is whether the due diligence guidelines are being followed. Combating Illicit Trade: Due Diligence Guidelines for Museums, Libraries and Archives on Collecting and Borrowing Cultural Material is one of the real achievements of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. I would like to hear how these matters are being monitored. We have escaped the scandal and the shame of some museums in the United States, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which were so lax in their due diligence guidelines that they found themselves collecting looted art and have been obliged to return that art—antiquities, mainly—to the countries of origin, including Italy and Greece. I am happy to say that we have escaped that situation but I would like to be assured that we are going to continue to escape it. I believe that our national museums and galleries are run with an integrity that far exceeds that of some major international institutions overseas. I would refer in pejorative terms to the Getty except that it has now adopted due diligence guidelines that meet high standards, but the other institutions I mentioned have not done so. It is important that national museums behave with probity and integrity, as I believe ours do.
My other concern is the fastest growing area of acquisitions in recent years—namely, portable British antiquities. I was very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, made a major point of this issue. One of the great achievements in British archaeology and in the museums of Britain since the passage of the Treasure Act 1996 has been the implementation of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the appointment of the 39 finds liaison officers. In 2007, 97 per cent of treasure finds were recorded by a finds liaison officer, of which about 50 per cent were acquired by museums. This is probably the major source of museums acquisitions in any area at the moment. It is a matter for pride that it is being done in a systematic way that respects the archaeological heritage of this country. It is notable also that it has been done in a modern way, with online access to finds. There were 82 million hits in 2006 on that online resource. Also—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, already made this point—it has a broadening effect. Those people participating in the Portable Antiquities Scheme are from a wider social base than those who visit museums. I heard him say that 46 per cent of visitors to the nationwide series of “Fabulous Finds” days organised by the Portable Antiquities Scheme had not been to the museum where they were being hosted before.
That is exactly what we want. It is the point that a number of noble Lords have made. We want to bring more and more people into our museums so that they are not just a middle-class preserve. It is striking also that 47 per cent of finds recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme have been recorded by finders in social classes C2, D and E. That compares with 32 per cent of visitors in those classes to museums. Somehow, the Portable Antiquities Scheme is being more effective in broadening access to the whole system than are the museums themselves. This is warmly to be welcomed.
It is a matter of real concern that the success of this scheme is under threat on financial grounds. Economies have to be made, but I note that there is an Early Day Motion in another place on this topic. It is a real concern that there is a risk of a cut of three out of the 49 posts of this service, which has been so recently set up and which we can all regard as one of the most conspicuous successes of the present Government and their Department for Culture, Media and Sport. I pay tribute to noble Lords opposite, including the noble Lord, Lord Smith, who were part of the move to bring these things about. The whole system of archaeology in this country has improved in recent years with the accession of the United Kingdom to UNESCO and with the passing of the relevant legislation, the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act.
My fourth and final question to the Minister is: how can the Portable Antiquities Scheme be protected?
In conclusion, I congratulate the Government unreservedly on the free admissions scheme, but ask how they propose to ensure that means are found to maintain this success. There is a real concern that the optimism of the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, may not be fully sustained in the outcome. A success like this needs continuing nurturing and input. It would be an irony, on one of the few issues where I as a speaker from these Benches can unreservedly congratulate the Government, if this success were undermined by negligence on the Government’s own behalf.
My Lords, in making what will be a brief contribution to the debate I should like to acknowledge our debt to my fellow traveller on the train from Crewe to London for initiating this debate.
We have all spoken of museums as the link with our history and heritage. It is most important that we have wide access and that no one is unable to attend a museum or art gallery because of financial restraints. In museums we can learn about what has helped to mould us and about the influences that have made us what we are today. I cannot go back into history, to the time of my grandparents, but I can visit, say, the National Slate Museum at Llanberis. I can see the conditions in which people worked in those very difficult times—and I could go on and emotionally describe how hard it was for people then and their families. I cannot go back to that time but I can go to that museum. I can also go to the Big Pit in South Wales and get some idea of what mining then was like.
My grandfather came from a small village in the Conwy valley called Capel Garmon, which no doubt all noble Lords will have heard of. He would walk from about five o’clock in the morning, or a bit earlier, down to the railway station at Betws-y-Coed, and from there he would catch the train to Blaenau Ffestiniog. He would then walk for possibly another 45 minutes to the rock to be there at seven o’clock, when work would start by the light of candles. In the evening, he would make the return journey. What a difficult life—a life which gave little time for family or relaxation. It was a difficult life that we never want to see again.
I sometimes visit cemeteries in north Wales, particularly in the quarrying areas, and I have seen the graves of the young people. The young men died possibly as a result of accidents or pneumoconiosis or other such diseases. The graves of the young women and children belong to another era—one that we must not be allowed to forget. That era brought about the social changes that have improved life for so many of us today.
On the wider stage, we can go to Liverpool and visit the International Museum of Slavery. We would be horrified by how heartless and cruel our forefathers were even to contemplate the transportation of millions of people from Africa to North and South America. We can go there and say, “This must not happen again”.
When I am in Jerusalem, I go, as I am sure other noble Lords do, to Yad Vashem, the memorial to the 6 million Jews slaughtered in Hitler’s Holocaust. I am horrified by what I see there. I cannot walk round the exhibits without feeling totally overcome with shame. Like other noble Lords, I visit the memorial there to the little children who were the victims of that particularly cruel regime in Europe. It is important to visit them so that we can be reminded of exactly how depraved people can be—how they can act in a way which is totally unbelievable in any civilised society. Yet, for most of us in this Chamber, those things happened during our time.
If people learnt history they might be wise enough to avoid the mistakes of history. We might thereby have a wiser generation who have a greater gentleness than did generations past. That is why it is so important that there should be no bar to museum access. It is important that we try to tell everyone—especially the lads and the lasses, the youngsters on our streets who are accused of causing so much harm—about the consequences of the culture of cruelty.
As has been mentioned, museums in England have been free since December 2001. In Wales we were eight months ahead of you. In April, under the leadership of the then Minister for Culture, Jenny Randerson, a very good friend of mine, we had free admission to our museums and art galleries. We wondered whether it would work. Although we thought that there might be some additional people, in the first year, 2002, there was an 87 per cent increase, similar to that first year in England. The National Slate Museum in Llanberis, for example, had 53,000 visitors the previous year but 144,000 in 2002. Free admission made it possible for everybody to go. We thought that there would be an increase but it was far more than we ever imagined. In 2001-02, a total of 764,599 people attended the nine museums. We thought that the figure would increase to 800,000. Instead it soared to 1,430,000, and the increase has continued. I am told that last year—just this morning I spoke to the Minister concerned about it—there were 1,535,000 visitors.
It is important for local people—for local youngsters—to have access to what it was that made them and what made society as it is today. It is also great for those involved in the tourism industry to be able to recommend attractions such as the slate museum here, the wool museum there—or St Fagans, the Museum of Welsh Life, on the outskirts of Cardiff. Noble Lords will already know about that. So I thank the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for introducing this debate and for giving us the opportunity to speak in a wide-ranging way about how essential it is that our museum access continues to be free of charge.
My Lords, I am delighted to add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Harrison on securing this very important debate. My enthusiasm for the Labour Government may not be completely unqualified but the abolition of admission charges to our national museums and galleries is one policy that has my complete support. It is fascinating to hear how it also has the support of everyone who has spoken in this debate. I am sure that when the history of this Administration comes to be written, this will be seen as one of their finest legacies. I am so pleased that my noble friend Lord Smith of Finsbury is here listening, and I hope he will contribute to the debate in a moment. I have two unpaid interests that I should declare. Last year I was appointed to the board of trustees of both the National Football Museum in Preston and the National Museum of Science and Industry, which covers the Science Museum, the National Media Museum in Bradford, the collection at Wroughton in Wiltshire, the National Railway Museum in York and Locomotion, its outpost in Shildon.
The figures quoted for the increase in visitor numbers at the national museums since the abolition of charges are absolutely startling. In a letter published in the Guardian last June, the directors of a number of museums quoted a figure of 30 million more visits, an 87 per cent increase, to museums that had previously charged for admission. In the case of the National Football Museum, the introduction of free access in March 2003 has led to an increase in visitor numbers of 177 per cent; that is, over 100,000 visitors each year. Free admission has also led to huge increases in the numbers of children and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds visiting most of the museums. Locomotion, the National Railway Museum’s site at Shildon, and the National Football Museum in Preston score particularly highly in these regards. In 2005-06, the latest year for which figures are available, 64 per cent of the visitors at Locomotion were from social classes C2, D and E, compared with an average for DCMS-sponsored museums of around 19 per cent. At the National Football Museum the figure was 42 per cent. Since the introduction of free access, a significant number of people from the Asian community of Deepdale, the area in Preston in which the museum is housed, are now frequent visitors and users of its education and outreach programmes.
Free entry has undoubtedly been a success, and, as I said, there is a settled political consensus that it will continue. I note for example that when Ed Vaizey MP, shadow Minister for Culture, was interviewed by the Parliamentary Monitor in July 2007, he said:
“We support free entrance to our national museums”.
My noble friend Lord Howarth of Newport has reminded me that his predecessor, Hugo Swire MP, was removed somewhat summarily when he was unwise enough to question the policy of free admission.
Against that background, this is a good moment for the Government to think more deeply about what the national museums are for and what they want from them. A great achievement of the present Government in respect of the national museums and galleries was starting a proper dialogue with them about their purpose. Such dialogue did not exist before 1997 but it is now reflected in the outcome targets identified in the funding agreements, all of which, for each national museum, can be read on the DCMS website. There has been a good debate between the museums and the DCMS over these targets and the Government are now recognising that museums are about much more than the numbers of people coming through the door, important though that is. Museums now agree targets that, for example, relate to the Government’s desire to broaden audiences to include those who have typically felt excluded from the type of experience they offer and to the extent to which the museums are delivering tailored education programmes to young people and to broader audiences.
On attracting the socially excluded, some museums have delivered splendidly. These museums tend to be those which cover science, technology, industry, transport and, of course, sport and football. However, I am sorry to say that the big national art museums have a long way to go before they make a real difference to their middle-to-working class visitor ratios because they are still very much bastions of the middle class. That some museums have shown their ability to attract a broader audience is very good news. It fits in, too, with another concern of the Government: that we should inspire young people with an interest in the world of science and technology.
But it is puzzling that, having measured performance against these government concerns, funding does not seem to follow success. The previous Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, James Purnell, and the new one, Andy Burnham, in his former role as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, deserve warm congratulations on ensuring that the three-year funding settlement for the national museums has sustained spending power in real terms in what is undoubtedly a difficult funding environment. But why is there not some recognition of the museums that have demonstrated their ability to deliver government agendas? If we are really serious about getting a broader audience to our national museums, we should be focusing funding on those which succeed and show the potential to succeed further.
The success of the National Football Museum has been achieved with core revenue funding from the DCMS which, until this year’s settlement, had not increased by one penny since 1 April 2003. One consequence is that it and other smaller museums, such as Locomotion at Shildon and, before its recent closure for refurbishment, the People’s History Museum in Manchester, can afford only a tiny marketing budget. As a result many people are still unaware of the museums’ existence and that they are free to all visitors.
I shall stay with the National Football Museum for a moment. The trustees welcome the decision by the principal football organisations to set up, under the Football Foundation, a review of the contributions they make to the museum with the intention of placing the museum on a much more secure long-term financial footing. I know that the Government believe that football should come up with substantially more money, and I think there is now evidence that the game is willing to accept that responsibility. But it would be good to hear from my noble friend that the Government are considering additional funding for smaller museums to enable them to draw attention to their free access and to contribute further to the success of government policy.
I wonder whether the Minister would agree that there is a gulf in policy between setting objectives that envisage lively and well-managed museums able to deliver the breadth of government education agendas to an increasingly diverse audience of young people nationwide and a funding regime that sustains the status quo; namely, well-funded art museums in London serving an audience that, frankly, does not reflect the nation as a whole. I know that the DCMS is sensitive about comparisons such as these, but can it be right that grant in aid per C2DE visitor to one of the principal art museums in London is around 11 times that for the National Railway Museum? In other words, it costs the Government 11 times as much to get a C2DE visitor into the former as it does to get one into the NRM, yet we know that the National Railway Museum can deliver experiences and education programmes of at least equal value to young people.
My message to the Government is that they must not rest on their laurels over free entry because, having delivered extra visitors, the opportunity to deliver on their priorities and objectives is not being met to anything like its potential. One key reason is that the grant in aid for the national museums—once the compensation for free entry has been deducted—has not kept pace with inflation, and certainly not with their hugely increased usage following free entry. The cost of education programmes, events and activities through which the museums deliver for the nation rises proportionately with the number of visitors. So although they have more visitors, they are unable to provide the quality of service that those visitors deserve, and the positive programmes that could engage those broader audiences are not being delivered to anything like their full potential.
In practice, while absolute numbers of C2DE visitors have risen with free entry, so have those of ABC1s, and at many museums the proportionate mix has not changed much. We know that the national museums cannot sit back and rely on grant in aid. Sponsorship, grant aid from charitable trusts and lottery funds are hard to get, but the vast bulk of the capital investment that goes into the nationals comes from these sources. As a consequence, they deliver tremendous value for money to the taxpayer. There has been a welcome increase in government capital funding in the new funding agreement, but it is starting from a very low base. The vast bulk of this new money—£50 million—is going to the Tate for its expansion. The Tate is a wonderful museum, but it is taking a large share of the total, whereas the share for other national museums is much more limited. For example, the National Museum of Science and Industry has got only £13 million over three years for all purposes—expansion, renewal and building maintenance. There are no funds for anything like an acquisition programme.
The noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, referred in his speech to tourism. I hope that the DCMS will have the vision to appreciate the real potential offered here by the national museums and galleries. The DCMS is good at setting objectives for museums, but I find it strange that while it also has strategic responsibility for tourism in the UK, it does not seem able to join that up with using its power as the owner of heritage attractions to help build the country's tourism business. We know that tourism depends to a very significant degree on our heritage. The department is responsible for a huge portfolio of that heritage, including—particularly relevant to today's debate—national museums. Yet it is difficult to see that there is a national plan for using this resource to help deliver the economic benefits of tourism, particularly tourism from overseas.
My final point is: should there not be some plans for investment in the national museums—other than the Tate, and particularly outside London—to encourage overseas tourism? I should like to see more vision and more joined-up thinking from the department. I should also like to see the department working with the regional development agencies to deliver investments which sustain and enhance our reputation as the home to world-class museums and galleries. We have a huge amount to be proud of in our national museums and art galleries. I just feel that we could be doing more to exploit that potential and achieve more income and more visitors from overseas.
My Lords, I do not think that I even need four minutes. I just wish to ask the Government two questions, but I shall declare my interests and say where I am coming from. I am a past chairman of the Area Museums Service for South East England and I was the chairman of Norfolk Museums Service when it was set up. I have been a member of ICOM for 40 years, so I have very rarely paid to go into a national museum anywhere in the world. Now the advertising: I am a director of Fakenham Museum of Gas and Local History, which is the only complete gasworks left in this country.
I congratulate the Government on introducing free entry to national museums—it is absolutely wonderful. I am very much in favour of all museums being free. I was also involved with libraries in Norfolk and I could not understand why anyone could borrow, without paying, any book from any library, with the possible exception of reference books, which could not be taken outside, and yet they had to pay to go into every museum.
Local government museums do not seem to have followed the example of national museums. What are the Government doing to persuade them and local authorities that entrance to all museums should be free?
When the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, introduced the debate, he said that he did not want cathedrals to charge for entry. My involvement with Norwich Cathedral means that I know why it has to charge. It is because there simply is not enough money to maintain buildings such as that. The cathedrals in this country have major collections, as well as being major architectural gems.
Many of the main collections of art, antiquities and architecture in this country are still in private hands. Have the Government given any thought to asking for free entry for the public to such establishments in return for more generous grants for repairs and maintenance?
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, on initiating today’s debate. We have had some extremely informative and expert speeches, and I certainly do not envy the Minister the task of winding up.
We have heard how the decision in 2001 to introduce free admission to the permanent collections of the DCMS-sponsored museums and galleries in England that charged for entry has been a resounding success. It is good that we have the architects of that policy in the House with us today. We on these Benches supported that step very strongly and I applaud it today. I declare an interest as an avid and regular visitor with my son to many of these superb museums.
I was particularly moved by the speech of my noble friend Lord Roberts, who spoke about the personal impact and importance that a visit to a museum can have. We have also heard what has resulted from the free admissions scheme. Figures published by the DCMS last June showed that there were nearly 7 million extra visits to England’s national museums and galleries which had formerly charged compared with the year before entry charges were scrapped. The most impressive increases in London were in the South Kensington museums. In the regions there were huge rises in Liverpool, the Natural History Museum at Tring and the National Railway Museum in York. It was therefore no surprise that the directors of the 22 nationally funded museums all wrote strongly in support of free admission in a letter to the Guardian last June. This was in response to some ill advised speculation by the now Olympic spokesman of the Conservative party referred to earlier, Hugo Swire. Needless to say, he was overruled fairly fast by his leadership and contradicted by the Conservatives’ own arts task force.
The CMS Select Committee report in December 2002 on the free admission scheme did conclude—this is where a number of noble Lords who, as well as applauding the original decision, were so wise in their caution about the future—that the compensation package agreed for the department was based on what seemed to be a modest, even conservative estimate in the likely rise in visitors. For example, in the case of the Natural History Museum, compensation was set to reflect a 20 per cent rise in visitor numbers. It therefore did not take sufficient account of an increase in visitor figures. It is also always the danger that the Government are compensating for the money lost from admission charges but not providing money to cope with the extra visitors that free admissions have brought.
The cost to the Government in specific grant in aid to the 22 museums increased from £4.2 million in 1999-2000 to £35 million in 2003-04. A separate amount is not paid currently but funding for free admission is taken into account in the allocation of all funds to all DCMS-sponsored museums. It seems that the current figure is £40 million. Certainly that was the figure stated when the Government published the figures last year. That figure surely does not keep pace with inflation. I will be interested to hear what the Minister has to say.
The DCMS press release last October announcing the result of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review said,
“A generous funding settlement for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport which will allow continued investment in the arts and cultural sectors has been announced today by the Government.
It will enable the Department to:
maintain funding for real terms growth for arts, museums and galleries, including maintaining free access to national museums and contributing to the cultural Olympiad”.
On the other hand, the Treasury described it in the Pre-Budget Report for the DCMS as containing,
“funding for the arts and museums and galleries at least in line with inflation. This will ensure continued free access to national museums, maintaining visitor numbers, and enable an even wider range of people to benefit from these high-quality cultural experiences”.
Which is it, real growth or an increase in line with inflation?
I can understand the DCMS euphoria. After all, there were fears that museums faced a cut of 7 per cent. Where they right, however, to be quite so buoyant? The last phrase is also extremely important in the context:
“enable an even wider range of people to benefit from these high-quality cultural experiences”.
We know that in general the free admissions policy has been a success. As I said, we applaud it from these Benches. But there is the question that many noble Lords have raised today of whether the policy has really led to a sufficiently diverse visitor base in these national museums. Although it is widely regarded that free entry has provided additional access—indeed the director’s letter states that an extra 16 million children have visited museums since they were granted free entry in 1998 and the number of visits from people from lower socio-economic groups has risen by 6.5 million in 2004-05—the public sector agreement targets for increasing the take-up by a wider and more diverse range of visitors into museums by 2 per cent are not being met, as was revealed in a recent parliamentary Answer to my honourable friend Don Foster on 4 February. The DCMS’s own Taking Part survey, the results of which were published last December, demonstrates this.
We would far prefer not to have these targets, but given that they exist, what resources from the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review are being used to ensure that they will be met in future?
Then we come to whether free admissions are sustainable in future. There will always be a danger that the policy’s success in attracting visitors will make the compensation paid by the Government inadequate to cover it. That means that the cost of funding free admissions eats into the budgets available for mounting exhibitions, buying new treasures and targeting those sections of the population yet to embrace museum-going, as my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter said. I hope the new strategy referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, and others will address that, and I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say. On these Benches, we do not believe that the enjoyment of culture should be limited to those who can afford to pay for it. Free admission is vital for promoting and allowing access.
Then there is the effect of free entry on other sources of income for museums, since they need to find alternative ways of raising the extra money. With free admission, trading income has increased significantly, and it is good to see that private sector sponsorship has increased significantly. I recently went to a presentation by Colin Tweedie of Arts and Business, who stated that private contributions to the museums sector now amount to £85.55 million per annum, a rise of 37 per cent since the previous year, which is one of the biggest rises in any of the arts sectors. He said that the growth of museums and galleries, which is obviously one of the great successes in the past 20 years, has been the absolute storming of the private sector’s relationship with museums and galleries. That is quite some testimony. However, as my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter said, with the right incentives for giving we could do even better.
I have just a few further issues to raise with the Minister. First, Renaissance in the Regions has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords. Visits to hub museums have increased enormously since 2002-03, as the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, described. The targets to increase the number of contacts between school-age children and regional museums and to generate additional visits by new users, predominantly from social classes C2, D and E and ethnic minorities, have been exceeded with ease, as the CMS Select Committee said in its Caring for our Collections report in June 2007. As the Select Committee said, I hope that the national museums will continue to build relationships with non-hub local and specialist museums and that, in order to meet their targets, they will take a leaf out of the outreach success of the Renaissance hubs.
The noble Lord, Lord Howarth, raised an important question about the future role of the MLA. In the context of the Renaissance in the Regions scheme, it needs to be pointed out that even hub museums that are of major national significance are not as well funded as those directly funded by the DCMS. A good example is the Ashmolean Museum. It is one of four university museums in Oxford that make up the Oxford University museums hub. The Ashmolean is a major draw for tourism in Oxford. It contains the University of Oxford’s collections of art and archaeology, which are the largest and most important in any museum outside London. As they have collections of national significance, such museums cannot help comparing their financial situation with that of museums funded by DCMS. It is very clear that they are trying to run equally ambitious enterprises on a fraction of the funding available to national museums which, in some cases, have neither such rich collections nor as many visitors. The comparisons demonstrate that in the funding that a museum such as the Ashmolean receives per visitor compared to many non-London museums. Museums such as the Ashmolean are modestly funded for the comparable job that they do. For them, an ideal long-term solution would be funding from the DIUS to cover the university work that they do—carrying out and supporting teaching and research as well as the conservation of the university’s collections—and funding from the DCMS to help them to realise their plans for access and outreach that would enable them to expand on the opportunities provided by Renaissance funding.
I now turn to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, although I feel that the noble Lords, Lord Renfrew and Lord Howarth, have already dealt with that in considerable detail. There are great concerns, which are shared by my noble friend Lord Redesdale, who has also taken considerable interest in the fate of the PAS. Whether it was an afterthought or whether it was a deliberate cut of 25 per cent in real terms over three years, I hope that Ministers in the DCMS are vigorously looking at the matter. I understand that a review is being carried out and I very much hope that the solution mentioned by noble Lords of the British Museum taking over the scheme will be realised, but it cannot do that without adequate funding. It is a vital scheme. We have heard about the access benefits and the success that it has had in attracting new visitors. We must ensure that that so recently instituted scheme is preserved.
On these Benches, we strongly support free admission and giving the widest access possible to our museums and galleries, but we need to be vigilant in making sure that there are proper resources to make that possible. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for initiating this interesting debate. It had one or two problems at the start. I would like to say how sad I am that we cannot hear contributions from such distinguished colleagues as the noble Lords, Lord Smith of Finsbury and Lord Lloyd-Webber. However, rules are rules and I understand that this one is strict. Perhaps it should be reviewed elsewhere: it certainly seems to be overharsh.
On 6 June 1683, the private collection of a certain Elias Ashmole was opened to the public. That day marked the beginning of a great civic tradition—that of the public museum. The tradition continues but it is increasingly at risk. At this point I would like to add something about the short speech of the noble Lord, Lord Walpole. He is sadly quite right about the plight of so many cathedrals which, as well as their proper role, are in effect also extremely important museums.
With museums unable to make important acquisitions and arts and heritage funding being siphoned off for the Olympics, I have serious concerns about the continuation of this tradition and the future of our great British institutions. I do not need to rehearse the important stature that national museums occupy in public life. These institutions set aside things of public value. They preserve our national heritage and ensure that works of art, artefacts and natural phenomena continue to enrich our understanding of the past, present and future. Access to a rich cultural heritage is a pillar of any civilised society.
At first glance, museums seem to be thriving: 80 million people visited museums last year. Recent research suggests that 43 per cent of people living in England have made at least one visit to a museum. The increased funding by the DCMS has had an obvious impact on museum attendance and is certainly to be welcomed. Yet, on closer inspection, it is not quite as rosy as the Government would have us believe. The DCMS has a direct relationship with only a small number of registered museums in the UK—the national museums and those funded by the Renaissance in the Regions programme. That constitutes only 22 museums throughout the country.
National museums seem to be always centre stage but other categories of museum do not receive direct government funding, and they have been mentioned this afternoon. Local authorities and independent charities fund museums throughout the country. Do the Government map the level of their support? What has been done recently to encourage support for the museums and galleries that do not receive direct funding?
While attendance is up, there is a danger that it might not be for long. Acquiring new pieces for their collections is vital to many museums. In evidence given to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Sir Nicholas Goodison, the former chairman of the National Art Collections Fund, said that a new acquisition generates tremendous excitement and,
“enormously enhances the educational possibilities, the local pride in the collections and so on”.
This was pointed out by my noble friend Lord Renfrew. Yet as important as that is that it is being disregarded by the Government in light of the many resources being diverted away from lottery funding. Many museums see the current funding for acquisitions as reaching a crisis. In 2006, the Art Fund, an independent charity of which my noble friend Lord Renfrew is a most respected trustee, published a detailed survey of the collecting activity of museums. He found that while museums believe that collections must be continually renewed for a museum to survive and prosper, nearly all said that inadequate core funding was currently a barrier to collecting.
The UK’s leading art museums lag behind other world-class museums when it comes to acquiring new pieces and collecting. David Barrie, the director of the Art Fund, characterised the situation as,
“getting worse, and is probably worse than ever”.
Does the Minister accept that assessment? What is he doing to reverse the diversion of lottery funding away from the arts, which was one of the lottery’s core aims?
It is unacceptable that while the Government may trot off figures about increasing attendance, a closer look reveals that the situation is much bleaker than imagined. Inadequate funding for acquisitions means static collections and flagging interest. Additionally, the higher number of visitors bring with them higher costs for maintenance, thus further depleting resources that could be used for collecting. Does the Minister consider it important to support museum acquisitions? I look forward to hearing the Minister’s answers to several questions that were asked by my noble friend Lord Renfrew. What studies have the Government made of the tax provisions of other countries that promote private support? Does the Minister agree that a key part of encouraging people to visit museums is for them to have high-quality exhibits? Does he share my concern that the difficulties in acquiring works of art will eventually impact on visitor numbers? We support the Portable Antiquities Scheme and we think that it is an excellent organisation, but if the funding is frozen for the next three years, which seems to be the case, it will wither away, particularly if it has to lose some of its staff.
The funding problem looks worse when we consider the money that has been diverted to the Olympics. The Government’s raid on lottery funding means that arts and heritage now receive £200 million less in annual lottery funding than in 1997-98. When the first budget for the Olympics was announced, the published breakdown of where the money was coming from revealed £410 million that would be taken from the current National Lottery good causes. The revised budget published in March last year revealed that an additional £675 million would be transferred from the lottery after 2009. This means that the arts are now contributing a staggering £160 million to the 2012 Olympics, £90 million of which is to help with meeting the overspending that has trebled the Olympic budget since London won the bid.
Thankfully, the Government have conceded that there would be no further raids on good causes to fund the Games. The result is still shamefully inconsistent. As Graham Sheffield, chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society put it, the Government are,
“one minute praising the arts sector to the skies, the next, nicking hundreds of millions of pounds from the arts to balance the books on its inadequate budgeting for the Olympics”.
However, we welcome the Government’s announcement today, whether it is real or in line with inflation.
The sales of Olympic land, which will be used to reimburse good causes for these diverted funds, is fine and I hope that it happens, but it is likely to take up to 10 years. Will there be any money to tide over the lack of money going towards museums? Do the Government expect it magically to bring arts and heritage back up to speed after a decade of slashed resources?
Surely the opposite approach is needed. The London Olympic Games will put a spotlight on the city and provide an occasion, the cultural Olympics, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, for the best of the nation’s cultural heritage to be showcased to the world. Does the Minister understand the widespread concern that the diversion of funds from the arts will compromise this? Is this a missed opportunity? Indeed, missed opportunity seems to be the overarching theme of the Government’s approach to funding for the arts. The state alone cannot fund all our great museums. We need to harness a wider range of resources. City profits have been increasing but corporate donations have not risen to match. The richest 20 per cent in the UK give a mere 0.7 per cent of their income and the poorest give four times as much. What have the Government done to encourage philanthropy?
In 2004, Sir Nicholas Goodison recommended tax relief on lifetime donations of works of art to national museums. According to Giving USA 2004, the private donations in the United States in 2003 were something like $13 billion. What is the Government’s current thinking on these proposals? My noble friend Lady Hooper asked some extremely penetrating questions on the subject and I look forward to the answers. We support the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter. According to a recent survey by the Museums, Libraries, and Archives Council, at least half of those museums surveyed would like more volunteers. What steps are the Government taking to encourage people to volunteer to help in museums and galleries? Even small donations help museums but is enough being done to encourage them? Is there any scope for increasing the visibility of donation boxes? Some of them are in excellent places and highly visible in museums but I have also seen some tucked away round the back. They should all be very visible at the exit.
Indeed, do the Government have any plans to assist museums in promoting donations on a more immediate scale? These are of course just a few ideas but will the Minister agree that they are so far missed opportunities? The essential point is that though there might be instances where museums are receiving more money from the Government and numbers are going up, this is by no means the whole picture. If we are to continue the great tradition of public museums in this country, a more dynamic and more robust approach is needed to safeguard our national heritage. Though there might be instances of success, museum funding seems flawed. I mentioned at the beginning the opening of a museum some 300 years ago. Of course I was referring to the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford, as also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, which has been there for 300 years. I am delighted that it recently received £15 million in lottery money to partially fund a redevelopment. Let us hope that this will be enough to preserve at least this great museum and enable it to continue being the leading focus of culture and heritage in Oxford and for many miles around. I shall also mention the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and the Walker in Liverpool, which has already been mentioned, and—dare I say—a little museum I know well called the Higgins museum in Bedford, which is full of amazing objects. They are all valuable and they all need much greater support.
My Lords, the House will be grateful to my noble friend Lord Harrison for providing this opportunity to debate a really important topic. His experience in this field is widely known, but that is true of all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. It has been of great interest for the Government to hear the considered and expert views on this subject.
I shall start by praising the Government for what they have done. While no doubt legitimate criticisms, large and small, have been made during the debate, it is easy to forget that by providing free admission to our national museums and galleries in 2001, the Government effectively absolutely transformed the position. Some will say that it is one of the great cultural achievements of this Government. I would go further and say that it is one of the great achievements of this Government in any field.
We are blessed in this House to have the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, who I am glad is present this afternoon, the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, who is here too, the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, who played an important part and, indeed, my noble friend Lord Evans of Temple Guiting, who played an important role later on. They all played important roles in this successful policy change. That it has been a success is best indicated by the ultimate test of whether a policy is a success, which is when the official Opposition come round to adopting it—here they have done so. There was a little wobble or two last year with the loss of a shadow Minister or two, but they have come round to supporting it. Despite the criticisms made by the noble Lord, Lord Luke, I understand that the official Opposition would not change the policy of free admission if they were ever so fortunate to come back to power again.
Since the Government introduced universal free admission to our national museums and galleries in 2001, almost 37 million additional visits have been made to museums—an increase of 40 per cent. Visits to the nine museums that used to charge have doubled. These figures alone demonstrate the success of the policy.
I shall spend a minute or two reminding the House of the history of free admission. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, reminded us, some of our great national collections, such as the British Museum, have always been free. But during the 19th and early 20th century, a number of museums introduced some form of charging. For example, the National Gallery—assumed by many to have always been free—introduced charges on certain days of the week to reduce the number of visits to enable artists to study works more closely and make copies of them. Post-war cultural policy saw the reintroduction of free entry to all national collections. However, in the 1970s, the then Conservative Government reintroduced charging through the Museums and Galleries Admission Charges Act. That policy came into effect in 1974, but thankfully was scrapped within three months by the incoming Labour Government.
Unfortunately when the Conservatives came back into power in 1979, they demonstrated their determination to abolish the principle of free access by permitting national museums to charge. This policy, along with real terms cuts in grant-in-aid, led to nine national museums introducing charges during the 1980s and 1990s, including the three south Kensington museums, which saw a drop of around 2 million visits per year as a consequence. By 1997, visitors to national museums had fallen to fewer than 24 million. Ever increasing charges meant that some of our museums were in danger of becoming bastions just for the elite. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Luke, will forgive me if I will not take any lessons from the Conservatives on this issue of the great tradition of our public museums.
When we came into power we pledged to scrap admission charges, which we did. In 1999, we introduced free entry for children; in 2000, free admission for those aged 60 and over; and in December 2001, free entry for all. Additional grant-in-aid was provided to the nine charging museums to compensate for the loss of income. Not only that, but we amended the legislation on VAT to allow national museums to recover the tax. This was worth £22 million in 2005-06.
The lottery has had a major impact over the years. Since 1994, the museums and galleries sector has received more than £1 billion from the Heritage Lottery Fund, one-third of its total budget. Research suggests that the combination of government compensation for admission charges and lottery funding has had the biggest impact in terms of visitor numbers. The continued success of the lottery means that the more than £700 million in new funding will be available from the Heritage Lottery Fund between 2009 and 2012. Many of our national museums will, we trust, also be playing a key part, with our support, in delivering a successful Cultural Olympiad.
We should not forget that this Government have also invested significantly in regional museums through the Renaissance in the Regions programme. Nearly £150 million has been invested in England’s regional museums since 2002, to raise standards, broaden access and provide a comprehensive service to schools. This programme is having a huge impact, as many noble Lords have told the House. School visits are up by 18 per cent and the number of children taking part in activities at museums has increased by more than 120 per cent.
Headline increases in visits do not tell the whole story. The increase in visits to some of the national museums that used to charge is spectacular. At the museum of the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, the National Museum of Liverpool, visits are up by 188 per cent; visits to the V&A are up by 151 per cent, and to the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester by 133 per cent. Two of those museums are outside London.
Not only are more visits being made, but the visitor profile is more diverse. It is not the case, as some contend, that free admission has benefited only the middle classes. Data supplied by the sponsored museums and galleries show that child visits have increased by 79 per cent to 8.4 million last year. Visits by people from lower socio-economic groups have increased by 21 per cent, from 5.4 million to 6.5 million. Visits by people from black and minority-ethnic groups have increased by 78 per cent.
Many museums have also enhanced and expanded their education and outreach services. The number of adult learners involved in organised educational activities has increased from 6 million to more than 9.5 million each year, and the number of those involved in outreach activities has almost doubled to 6 million each year.
There has been a whole series of questions quite legitimately asked of the Government as a result of this all-too-short debate. I will not have time to attempt to answer all of them. If I do not answer questions that have been asked, I promise to write to noble Lords with replies. Copies will, of course, be put in the Library. I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I do not deal with everything. I cannot; we would still be here on Monday morning.
During the Comprehensive Spending Review, we recognised that safeguarding free admission was a top priority, not only for us, but for the boards of our national museums and the public. A convincing case was made for funding and, as a result, despite what everyone knows to have been a very tight spending round, we have been able to offer our museums inflation-proof increases in running cost grants and, in many cases, significant increases in capital. We have also provided additional funding for new facilities which will enhance the museums’ offer, bringing in even more visitors. This includes help towards the running costs of the new Museum of Liverpool, which will be a world-class museum of social history when it opens in two years’ time, and the costs of the V&A’s new education centre. As has already been mentioned, £50 million has gone towards the new extension to Tate Modern, now the most visited modern art gallery in the world, and perhaps one of the greatest successes of all that we have talked about today. We have also provided an inflation-proof settlement for the renaissance programme to ensure that this continues to provide vital support to our regional museums.
My noble friend Lord Harrison referred to the Waterways Trust. He made an eloquent plea to consider the position of the three museums of the Waterways Trust. We recognise the importance of our industrial heritage and the excellent work of the custodians of the trust’s unique collection. The trust receives financial support from government by way of a £100,000 grant for the Renaissance Designation Challenge Fund and £40,000 from the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund. The Heritage Lottery Fund has provided £900,000 towards the redevelopment of the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum, which I know is close to my noble friend’s heart. However, I must make clear that the Government have no plans to expand their family of sponsored museums by providing direct core funding to the Waterways Trust or to other museums. In fact, we are reducing our sponsored museums family by one in April when the responsibility of the DCMS, along with funding, for the Museum of London transfers to the GLA.
Despite a good spending review outcome for DCMS, the budget is—noble Lords have drawn attention to this—extremely tight and priority has to be given to safeguarding those museums we already sponsor and the renaissance programme. I know that that is a disappointment not just to my noble friend, but also to others who have support for other museums. We encourage them to continue their dialogue with the department and with the MLA, which is working with the trust to help strengthen and develop its business model and secure additional funding from a range of sources. I understand that the Minister for Culture, Margaret Hodge, has also offered a further meeting to discuss the museum’s future.
Dealing as best I can with some of the points that have been made, the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, asked whether I could provide any more details on the national strategy for museums. My noble friend Lord Howarth also asked about that. I cannot give much more detail, but the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council has been charged with developing this strategy and will publish it in the next few months. My noble friends Lord Harrison and Lord Faulkner of Worcester and the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, asked about devising strategies to obtain a better balance of funding between national, regional and local museums. It is inevitable that there will be some imbalance of funding for national museums, because most are based in London. However, 80 per cent of the renaissance programme funding goes to regional museums that are outside London and the south-east.
My noble friend Lord Harrison asked whether museum boards and staff need to redouble efforts to persuade a sometimes sceptical public that museums are not the preserve of the privileged white middle class. The answer of course is yes. Museums have increased their effort to attract a wider range of visitors to the traditional museum, which can be seen in the fact that visits by people from BME backgrounds have increased, as have visits from different socio-economic groups.
But should not the governing boards of museums reflect more accurately the profile of the country as a whole? I answer my noble friend Lord Harrison by saying, yes, we agree wholeheartedly that museums have made some progress on increasing board diversity, but there is much more still to do. My noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked about the comparative costs of attracting lower socio-economic groups. It is difficult to make direct comparisons between museums. There are many factors that determine visitor make-up, including local demographics. The costs associated with running museums vary considerably because of the nature of the collections and the building costs.
My noble friend Lord Howarth recommended statutory obligations on local authorities; I hope that is in due course rather than straightaway. We have no plans to impose statutory obligations on local authorities in respect of cultural provision. However, cultural provision is considered as part of local authority performance assessment, so local authorities are assessed on what they do in the cultural field. The noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, made the point that setting targets does not work and she welcomed the focus on excellence. The DCMS has abolished targets for the new funding agreements with sponsored museums and—I hope that she will be pleased with my reply—we will focus on judgments of excellence, as Sir Brian McMaster has recommended.
My noble friends Lord Harrison and Lord Howarth, the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, and the noble Lords, Lord Renfrew and Lord Luke, asked about encouraging philanthropy and the use of tax incentives, which goes to the issue around contemporary art too. We are actively exploring ways of encouraging greater philanthropy in the sector. As noble Lords will know, the Tate, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery have benefited this year from major bequests and donations. There are a number of successful tax concessions in place, including acceptance in lieu and conditional exemption. Under acceptance in lieu, 38 objects valued at £25 million went to our national collections in 2006. We need to encourage more take-up of the concessions that I have referred to. The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded over £150 million for acquisitions and more than £56 million for archive and library acquisitions across the country. It created a £3 million fund per annum from last year to support museums and galleries in that area. However, there is a problem.
The Government are extremely grateful to Sir Nicholas for his recommendations in the Goodison report, which has been referred to. As I understand it, the majority of them have already been implemented. We share his view and objective of encouraging greater philanthropic giving to cultural institutions. We want better use made of existing incentives. To that end, the Treasury is undertaking a consultation with the charitable sector on measures to increase the take-up of Gift Aid. In addition, the Government keep all taxes under review and we will continue to try to identify ways to increase the uptake of existing forms of tax-efficient giving. I could not agree more with the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, about the importance of acquiring contemporary art. Given the current inflated art market, public money alone cannot be expected to secure major acquisitions. We are working hard to encourage private donations, and he will know about the recent successes.
I have heard the strong feeling from various parts of the House about the Portable Antiquities Scheme, as has the right honourable Margaret Hodge in another place. Of course, the MLA intends to maintain current levels of support for the PAS in 2008-09. I understand how that is not enough for those who support this excellent scheme. The MLA is reviewing the scheme and will consider options for future funding in the context of wider priorities for museum collections and public participation. If it brings comfort to those who want to see the scheme continue to succeed—that is a universal feeling around the House—the DCMS, the MLA and the British Museum are in discussions about the issue, as we speak. I have taken on board the strong feelings expressed in the debate.
What are we doing to encourage free access to local authority museums? The answer is that this is a matter for local authorities, but two-thirds of Renaissance museums, many of which are funded by local authorities, are free, including the one which I know best in Leicester, which is an excellent museum. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, referred to the poor imbalance of funding between Renaissance museums against national museums. I need to point out that Renaissance itself was not devised as a funding programme for all museums. The programme has been developed on the principle that investment should benefit audiences rather than institutions, hence the focus on investment into larger museums serving major centres of population. Are we considering the future funding of smaller museums? We will consider that as part of the McMaster Review and the next spending review.
I must move to my conclusion quickly. Has free admission worked? The answer from around the House is yes. We do not think that will be changed, whichever Government are in power. Many more people are visiting and from a broader cross-section. The National Museums Director has already been quoted during the debate. In his recently published and widely welcomed report on excellence in the arts, Sir Brian McMaster acknowledges the success of free admission. In fact, he is so convinced of the success of the policy at broadening cultural engagement that he has recommended that the principle of free entry should be extended to the arts for an annual free tickets week. We think this is a very exciting proposal and are considering how we might make this a reality in the hope that that idea has great support in the House.
The noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, talked about museums teaching us about history. The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, talked about museums being magic. They are a fantastic asset to our country. We have a huge amount to be proud of. It is the responsibility of the Government to make sure that museums continue to be the great success that they have been until now. I apologise to noble Lords for not being able to answer more of their questions, but as I said earlier I shall reply in writing.
My Lords, I note that the Minister has overrun his allotted time and that we still have some eight to ten minutes left of the time scheduled for this debate. First, I should like to express particular thanks to Alex Brocklehurst and all his fellow workers at the research desk in the House of Lords Library who provided such a wonderful brief for today’s debate. I hope that that continues to happen. I should like to thank all those who have spoken in the debate, but, in particular, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, who made his way back here after having a commitment earlier today. He has listened to the whole of the debate and came in half-way through my own opening contribution.
I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, for the kerfuffle that she witnessed on the front here. I was trying to establish what the rules were concerning those speaking in the gap. Perhaps the Whips would like to address me about whether some form of decision was taken by the usual channels to try to prevent the legitimate opportunity that we as members of this Chamber should have in our ability to speak in the gap.
I should also like to take up what the noble Lord, Lord Luke, has said. I regret that we have not heard from the architect of this policy, the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, or indeed from the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, who might have contributed well to our debate.
It strikes me that we are in a museum ourselves. Some of the people outside this Chamber think that there are relics who lie within it. I would say that anyone who had got the tenor of the debate today would learn that we are revitalising ourselves by the expertise that was showed in the debate and the wonderful ideas that were spawned by having this debate. Is it not a further irony that we encourage museums not to remain as merely conservers and preservers of traditions and collections, but to modernise? We ask them to communicate to a world outside, to those who might listen. How like the workings of the House of Lords, where we wish to communicate with the world outside. However, it seems that some of our regulations are there to impede us in this vital task for the nation.
I hope that those who listened to the debate might take back these words and ask themselves, “Is it really worthwhile that this House should frustrate itself in communicating to the nation?”. We heard one example, but at least one other Member of your Lordships’ House wanted to speak in the gap and was prevented from giving us the wisdom that they have acquired over many years on a policy that is an outstanding example of why this Government are worth supporting.
I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
House adjourned at 6.01 pm