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Museums and Galleries

Volume 724: debated on Tuesday 25 January 2011


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to review the funding of national museums and galleries.

My Lords, the Government have no plans at present to review the funding of national museums and galleries, following the outcome of the spending review in October 2010.

I am grateful for that response. Over the past 10 years, there has been a major improvement in our national museums and galleries. The increase in funding has been of great benefit, and the high standards are internationally recognised. What action is being undertaken to retain these high standards and the importance of the funding?

My Lords, many of your Lordships know and appreciate the valued contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Sheldon, to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts and Heritage, especially as president. I quite understand his preoccupation with the future of the museums and galleries. We have in this country not only the finest museums and galleries but, as he so rightly says, the finest directors. I assure him that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is in close contact with these directors and will make certain that they will not be put into difficulties or forced to lower their exceptionally high standards.

On the positive side, the Secretary of State has limited the reduction in resource funding for national museums and galleries to 15 per cent over four years, to protect their unique role and world-class status and to maintain free admission to the permanent collections. The Secretary of State has also secured more than £20 million of capital funding per annum to enable the national museums to maintain their buildings and to protect their collections. He has also focused £11 million on completing the British Museum’s development and transformation of Tate Modern.

Does the Minister recall that when a previous Question was asked on museums, the suggestion was made that the Treasury might look at the idea of accepting works of art in lieu of tax before people die? It is often done afterwards. Will she draw the Government’s attention to that idea so that the Chancellor can look at it in due course?

My noble friend has a good point. It has been brought up. We have an excellent scheme, the acceptance in lieu scheme, which recently marked its centenary during which it has helped to enhance public collections across the UK and ensure public access in perpetuity to many great buildings and works of art. I am aware that it has been suggested that this scheme should be extended to promote the donation of works of art during one’s lifetime rather than after death. Tax measures are of course a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

My Lords, given the Government’s professed commitment to localism, is the Minister concerned that the education, access and outreach programmes are most likely to be immediately affected by the cuts, and that such cuts are already being made at the National Museums Liverpool, for instance? Will she be mindful of the depth of feeling in the Liverpool area about these issues as demonstrated by the 18,000-strong petition presented to the Government to maintain proper NML funding?

The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, has a good point, of which the Government are aware. The Secretary of State has announced his firm funding plans for the national museums and galleries over 2011-12 as part of the spending review, as I said. I hope that we will go further into the noble Earl’s point in the debate in his name next week.

The Government are well aware of the interest of the noble Lord, Lord Myners, in philanthropy, and the Secretary of State is aware of its importance in running alongside what the Government are doing. We have several projects and some meetings set up. The noble Lord will see these projects over the next couple of months which I trust will be to his liking.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of the National Museums Liverpool. Is the Minister aware of the assessment that the £20 million that the Government spent on museums in Liverpool generated £120 million in the local economy? Will Her Majesty’s Government take this into account in their spending plans?

My Lords, one thing that the Government have done to encourage philanthropy is to establish an £80 million match-funding fund. However good encouraging philanthropic giving to the arts might be, does my noble friend not agree that it is important for there to be both private and public funding of museums and galleries, and that this Government are committed to public funds for museums and galleries?

Yes. My noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter makes an important point, of which the Secretary of State is fully aware. He will be doing as much as possible to encourage private giving, as I was saying to the noble Lord, Lord Myners. We will be protecting regarding the cuts to museums so that we protect the fine quality we have in this country as expressed in the question of the noble Lord, Lord Sheldon.

My Lords, does the Minister recognise the crucial role of local councils in funding local and specialist museums and galleries? What steps will the department take to preserve these collections when the cuts in local council funding inevitably take their toll on those collections?

The Government are very much aware of these issues, which is why we have followed through with the Renaissance programme for arts, galleries and museums in the regions. The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and some other bodies are being passed on to the Arts Council England to ensure that these galleries and museums are properly looked after.