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Museums: Funding

Volume 759: debated on Monday 26 January 2015

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the future position of museums in regional areas, in the light of the withdrawal of national funding from 2015-16 onwards.

My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity to bring to the attention of the House the plight of museums in general and the People’s History Museum in Manchester in particular. I need to declare an interest. I am chairman of trustees at the People’s History Museum.

These are difficult days for museums and for other arts and cultural organisations. One in 10 museums is considering selling parts of its collection and more than half have cut staff. Funding bodies, be they local authorities, national government or universities, are feeling the cold blasts of austerity. In 2010 the Department of Culture, Media and Sport announced that it would identify options for relinquishing control and sponsorship of certain museums which could in future be regarded as the responsibility of local communities. It was the wish of DCMS not to leave any museum on this list high and dry. The People’s History Museum in Manchester was on that list, and we have been feeling high and dry.

Today—quite by coincidence—the DCMS has notified the director of the museum that it will provide the museum with £100,000 for 2015-16. This is a welcome move by DCMS and the Government, and with our fundraising it secures our future for 2015-16—but it still leaves unresolved the following question which is high in our minds. Why is the People’s History Museum the only national museum without secure future income streams? What happens in 2016? Even this year, by the way, we have lost £50,000; currently we receive £150,000 from DCMS. The campaign to establish a proper recognition of the People’s History Museum as a national, not a regional, museum goes on. We have a breathing space but we do not have the answer.

Why is the People’s History Museum important and why should it be of central interest to this House and to Parliament in general? The museum tells the inspiring story of the struggle of working men and women to win the right to vote. Not, I think all noble Lords will agree, a local or a regional issue. Not a Manchester or north-west issue, but one which embraces the whole of the UK. Indeed the need, the duty, the privilege to vote is a vital contemporary message in this era of low turnouts and apathy about politics.

Judging by the number of hits he received on social media, Russell Brand’s statement on “Newsnight” that he does not intend to vote attracted an astonishing amount of support, especially among the young. To combat that cynicism, we should tell the story at every opportunity of how the universal franchise was won. The story—familiar to many in this Chamber—ranges from John Wilkes and Tom Paine, through the abolition of slavery and the Peterloo massacre, the Great Reform Act, the Chartists, the Corn Laws, the emergence of trade unions, Gladstone/Disraeli debates, Labour’s origins, the suffragettes, and the founding of the welfare state. The story is told with wit and flair and attracts increasing numbers of visitors—more than 100,000 last year.

Importantly, the museum also houses the rich archive of the Labour Party; the Conservative Party archive is at the Bodleian, by the way, and the Liberal Democrat one is at the LSE. The Labour archive rather reflects the fact that Labour did things in a more bureaucratic way than either the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats by writing documents, taking minutes and having collective files rather than individual, personal ones. It was described by Matthew Parris in the Times as a “treasure trove”—and it is. It is all there and there is some terrific material.

The museum also incorporates the National Museum of Labour History, which started in London, and has a glorious collection of old union banners and memorabilia of all the great struggles of the Labour movement over 150 years. But now the PHM looks set to lose at least some of its national funding this year and all of it after 2016. It is not the only museum being threatened in some way or other because many, as I have mentioned, are having a hard time—but some have found ways to maintain DCMS funding. Some have allied with one of the great London museums; for example, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester has linked up with the Science Museum Group in Kensington. The Horniman Museum in south-east London—near where I live—has managed to keep a direct line to DCMS funding.

The PHM does not have obvious national partners. We have tried the British Museum and the British Library, but both have problems of their own. We would feel like orphans in the storm were it not for the solid support of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, which provides marvellous support—as do the TUC, trade unions and the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has given substantial help with our new and impressive buildings.

To be fair, Ministers have been reflecting on how to help and have now done so to a degree, but the hesitation and the absence of a longer-term settlement are feeding the view that there is an anti-northern bias within the Government when it comes to the arts—and an anti-Labour one, too. Why are we to be left in the cold when others, including the prestigious Bodleian and the LSE, receive regular national help with their funding?

The PHM focuses primarily on the right to vote and trade union history, but it is neither sectarian nor tribal. William Hague, Charles Kennedy and Matthew Parris have opened exhibitions. In the current, successful “Sponsor a Radical Hero” campaign, Margaret Thatcher, controversially, and Winston Churchill and Lloyd George, rather less so, have been sponsored—and they, and others, will be honoured with a plaque on the wall in the museum alongside the name of the sponsor. Other Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders remain open for sponsorship, so roll up and see me afterwards, and I will fix a good price. I am very grateful to a number of my noble friends for sponsoring their own radical hero. If any other noble friends are interested, perhaps they could see me afterwards.

The right to vote is a precious privilege. As Jack Jones, my predecessor as chairman of the trustees, often said, the right did not fall off the Christmas tree. It had to be fought for, and people died for it. Indeed, when we consider the queues in polling stations in new democracies, such as in post-apartheid South Africa or more recently in Afghanistan and Iraq, there can be no place for cynicism about democracy. I hope that Ministers fully share this view and understand the role of the PHM as part of our country’s role in bringing democracy to the world.

I hope that Members of this House will reflect on the fact that in the march towards universal suffrage our predecessors were usually the bad guys huddled on the wrong side of the battle, defending privilege and unsatisfactory status quos. They fought long and hard against the abolition of slavery, for rotten boroughs and to exclude the rising middle classes of the new industrial cities. Then they were against democratic rights for working men and then women. Tonight there is a chance for some collective redemption, a chance to join the right side of history for a change, by sending a strong message that the story of the British road to democracy as told by the People’s History Museum—a national museum in Manchester, not a Manchester museum—its collections and its messages should be honoured and supported. I urge the House to send that message.

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for introducing this debate. I have three minutes, and I will speak about the Bowes Museum, another museum in the north. It is among the two or three largest regional museums in the country. It is acknowledged in James Stourton’s definitive book as holding extensive collections of the finest quality. It is in Barnard Castle, County Durham. Its iconic mechanical swan is its mascot. I was for nine years chairman of the trustees. Now I am a fundraiser and donor, so these words are my personal views, not the museum’s.

Failing finances have caused changes in governance. The most recent was 17 years ago, when County Durham was trustee and manager. The county judged that it was unfair to expect it to finance so large a museum. As a result, the present private trust was set up, with County Durham as the core funder providing 25% of revenue expenditure. All went well for 10 years. The enormous building was repaired, much was done to the collections, and an excellent café and shop were established. The number of visitors rose from 65,000 to 120,000. We were looking forward to an exciting future. Unfortunately, things changed in 2010. County Durham, again judging that its commitment to the Bowes was too great a burden, began to lower its core grant year by year. It is now down from 25% to 15% of a reasonable budget. Anything less than £2.5 million will leave the Bowes operating far below its potential; 25% of £2.5 million is more than £600,000, whereas the museum expects less than £400,000 this year.

Meanwhile, the Bowes has increased its income and raised money from charitable trusts and from Arts Council-sponsored programmes. It is a Catalyst participant and has crowdfunded through Kickstarter and Art Happens. None of this has cured the shortage of curators. Nothing much can be done without curators. Unless there is positive action the Bowes will become becalmed, and the threat of a change in governance will re-emerge. The outcome is likely to be a return to the county. Nobody wants that. The DCMS could accept that the Bowes be nationally supported. A grant of £600,000 a year—which is very modest in relation to other DCMS obligations—would transform the position. It has always been difficult to see why the DCMS has not tackled the question, “Is it reasonable to expect County Durham to be the sole core funder of the Bowes?”. This question is urgent and needs an answer. I trust that my noble friend will agree that discussions and action are needed.

My Lords, I am exceedingly grateful to my noble friend Lord Monks for raising this issue. I rise for two reasons. First, I had the privilege of having a tour of the People’s History Museum and I was exceedingly impressed by the contribution that it makes. It made me reflect upon the situation that we find ourselves in in London. We are so privileged to live in London. We have access to some of the finest museums in the world, and we have free access to them. That is a great privilege. It certainly contributed to some of my autodidactic education, when I visited the British Museum on a regular basis and a number of the national galleries. The plea that is being made is very reasonable.

Secondly, my noble friend made the point that the People’s History Museum focuses on national issues: the right to vote, universal suffrage and the history of the Labour movement. The Government have said that they recognise the importance of strengthening the regions. In the other place, the Chancellor talked about extending rail networks in the north. In my view, this is just as important an issue in relation to the well-being of people who live in the north-west as in relation to its national contribution. I hope that the Minister will take that point into account when he replies. How do we recognise the cultural contribution that regional museums make and the importance of them engaging with local schools and colleges, which the People’s History Museum does? How important do we rate that in ensuring that the museum has a viable future?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Monks, for securing this important short debate. I come at it from two perspectives. My base and my home are in the north-east of England, the location of many of Britain’s finest museums, Bowes being just one among a number, all of which are in some difficulty or other due to the current funding position. Secondly, I am the former deputy general secretary of the Labour Party. As noble Lords heard from the noble Lord, Lord Monks, earlier, the party’s comprehensive archive is located there—and, if for no other reason, the People’s History Museum is definitely worth a visit from noble Lords.

The analysis of the current funding of museums leads to a number of common themes and threads. First, on all museums and galleries there is a significantly increased force of self-reliance on income generation. That is not necessarily a bad thing in itself; all manner and means of securing additional income are important. However, it is not in any way going to substitute from the core funding of such institutions. Secondly, there is a massive increase in dependence on benefactors. To follow up the point about the privileged position referred to earlier, London benefits—in proportion about 70% to 30% in terms of benefactor income to galleries and museums compared to the rest of the country. Thirdly, there is an erosion of lottery funding, which is seeping into core funding outside of its added value original concept, its purpose being not to substitute core funding but to supplement and add value in all aspects of cultural life across Britain. Fourthly, there is a widening gap between the imbalances of funding available to and in London and in the rest of the country.

Since the end of the 20th century, lottery funding has benefited Londoners by about £142 per head compared with about £45 outside London. Additionally, local authorities outside London have provided 32% additional income to arts funding grants, as opposed to the 6% added additionally within London. The overall figure per capita inside London is about £65 per head of arts funding, compared to £5 per head across the rest of the UK. Those imbalances grow year on year. Then, of course, there are additional hidden costs and subsidies to cultural life in London, such as the cost of travel to London, the use of hotels, restaurants and other facilities when people increasingly visit London as opposed to the rest of the country—and the imbalance is further compounded.

Austerity is biting and will continue to bite year on year, particularly outside London, which will have a worsening consequence for the regions of England year on year. The imbalance is evident and the Government need to examine it and come up with a plan for action as to how they will go about restoring the balance back to the rest of the country compared to London. As a last resort, museums and galleries have been forced to sell off precious items, which should be stopped through government action.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Monks, surprised me in his opening remarks by describing the Liberal Democrats as not being bureaucratic. That is something that I have never heard them accused of before, although the Liberal Party may have been able to stand up for itself—but I thank him for that.

When the noble Lord talks of the importance of regional museums, or museums outside the centre of London—the first megacity, and the one that dominates our transport structure, which things go in and out of, making it easier than actually travelling across the country—he is, of course, right. There are good reasons for this historically, and we should be trying to change it where we can. However, we are where we are, and I for one am not going to suggest that the National History Museum is moved. I do not think that many other people would either. Indeed, if the noble Lord would care to try it, I would quite like to watch, because it would be a pretty good show. But the regional structure should be seen as underpinning the rest of the museum service—the creation of local history and local knowledge, no matter where that national museum is based. This is a very important resource, and we must try to make sure that it feeds in.

I am sure that in the People’s History Museum there is some very interesting stuff about agricultural workers and their attitude towards the vote, different from workers in earlier unionisation—and how that would tie into different practices in regional museums in my part of the world, Norfolk. There would be a different structure and dynamic there; all of them are required to make the whole work properly. So I suggest to my noble friend that it is vital that the Government take this on board and look at it as a whole.

Let us be perfectly honest. When I looked at funding, I was astounded at the number of potential sources. There are two lottery funds, five different ones from Europe that I found—I gave up after that. Then there is the National Trust and there are local authorities. I could go on for quite a while on this, but there are lots of them. How on earth can a smaller museum under a stressed bureaucracy and a stressed service, looking after curators, get the best out of these streams? It is not surprising that those at the centre with better resources will get more. What steps are being taken to make sure that all local museums have access to the national funding available for museums? That is something that goes across parties and Governments—that with these divergent streams, the best should get more.

I have talked about sport on many occasions. We discovered in the early stages of the lottery that tennis clubs did rather better than football clubs for resources. If you have the people there and the resources to fill out the forms, you will do well. Please can we bring this together and look to get the best out of it? The noble Lord has put his finger on a problem that has been there for a long time.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Monks, for initiating this debate. I have pleasure in supporting him.

The issue around the People’s History Museum is essentially a problem of definition, affecting the level of funding. Because it is said that it is not national, its funding is reduced. That seems a bizarre decision to me, quite frankly. How can a museum that portrays the history of the people of a nation not be a national museum? I would like to hear more on that from the Government Front Bench. Some say that the funding is affected because it is in the north. Again, I would like to see the Government deal with that; I cannot believe that it can be true.

This museum is rather special—it talks about the people’s past. It is a young museum, as the noble Lord, Lord Young, said, and a vigorous museum. It is an exciting museum because it tells the story of the people’s history—the struggles in the past of the Chartists and the Suffragettes, and the forming of the trade unions—in a vibrant and accessible way, which is how the story should be told. And it is also, believe it or not, a new story. The history is from the past, but the story is new, because in the past these stories of ordinary people had been hidden from history. Even in my days at school, they were pushed to the margins by kings and queens and other choices made by the ruling class. It is the story of those who have made, built, served, tilled and went to wars, and it is a story that must be told continuously through future generations.

Most interestingly, the story that the museum tells mirrors the story of the museum itself. As my noble friend Lord Monks, said, the museum has only just been born. It was only in the 1970s that I remember personally—as I know the noble Lord, Lord Monks, also can—trade union people in the East End of London going around collecting banners, leaflets and other artefacts to try to build a museum for a history that we had almost lost, because nobody thought that it was important enough to preserve. So those people did us a great service when they put that museum together, and it has gone from strength to strength.

The noble Lord, Lord Monks touched on another important theme—namely, that the history of the parties opposite have their histories safe and secure in Oxford and London. I have no problem with that. The party directly opposite opposed most of the advances that are celebrated in the People’s History Museum. I can forgive it for that. But with its past all nicely and warmly secured in Oxford and in London, would it not be nice, as my noble friend Lord Monks said, to show some generosity to the working classes and make sure that our museum that we want to celebrate and look forward to having a great future has the same kind of support?

My Lords, I join others in thanking and congratulating my noble friend Lord Monks on bringing this debate to the House. The People’s History Museum is a fantastic national and international museum—you can see that when you visit it. Having said that, as a fellow Mancunian, I am very pleased that it is located in Manchester and the north-west, and I think that my noble friend is probably also pleased about that.

At the time that the funding of the People’s History Museum changed, I was the chair of the National Coal Mining Museum for England, which was affected by the same regulations. I make this my first point as I think that it is the source of the difficulties experienced by the People’s History Museum. In 2010, the Government decided that some of national museums—those that were not covered by an original statute—would be funded in a different way. I think that my noble friend Lord Monks described it as the DCMS relinquishing control and sponsorship. If my memory serves me right, every single one of the affected museums was a national museum outside London. The national museums in London were not affected by this provision.

My museum was affected in the same way. It meant that an awful lot of time and effort had to be put into securing a partnership in order to survive. The Coal Mining Museum already had a partnership with the Science Museum. However, the People’s History Museum, which did not have that alignment, has experienced a lot of difficulty. Even in our case, the time, effort, resource and the legal work involved in making that new relationship work was not worth the effort. To tell the truth, the reason it was done was to reduce the number of quangos, because that was the government commitment at the time of the general election. That is not a great episode in the reputational history of the DCMS.

I will make two further brief points. Regional museums, or museums in the regions—whichever way you wish to look at it—are very important. We are very proud of our national museums, which are some of the best in the world, but we now worry about the gap between the north and the south and between the regions and the capital. This is one example of where we have not quite got that right. Regional museums are important not just because they tell a story but because they are part of the cultural fabric of their cities, towns and villages, which helps regeneration, promotes social and cultural cohesion and helps give us a better education service.

Although I applaud the work that the Arts Council has done since it took on responsibility for museums, if you look at the ways that museums now seek funding, for example through grants, you will see that the regions find it more difficult than London. Philanthropy is not as easy if you are a regional museum, and money from local authorities is not as available as it used to be. For all those reasons, regional museums are having a tough time. I am delighted to draw that to the House’s attention in this debate.

The noble Baroness is entirely right: local museums, as I prefer to call them, reinforce a sense of identity and community. I am very sorry that I have not been to the People’s History Museum, but doubtless I can put that right. Naturally, I thank the noble Lord for introducing the debate and wish him every success in maintaining what is clearly a very important national asset.

My love of history, and my inspiration for entering politics, came from visiting the Wilberforce House Museum in Hull as a very young boy—William Wilberforce is my parliamentary hero—and seeing what motivated him to begin his great campaign for the abolition of the slave trade and, later, of slavery. That gave me a sense of local pride, as well as knowledge and determination. Now I have the great pleasure of living in Lincoln—my native county is Lincolnshire—which has two very splendid museums: The Collection, which tells the story of Lincolnshire from the Romans and, indeed, before; and the Usher Gallery, which was given by a local benefactor in the first part of the last century. It was there that I first acquired my love of art when I saw the wonderful collection of watercolours by Peter De Wint, who did so much painting in Lincolnshire.

Now, as chairman of the Historic Lincoln Trust, I see another value of the local museum. Many people do not have the chance to come to London. I paid my first visit to a London museum when I was about 18. Local museums can often borrow items of great importance from national museums and galleries. This was seen to splendid effect last year when the Lindisfarne Gospels went to Durham.

This year in Lincoln, as part of our Magna Carta celebrations, we are amassing a wonderful collection from great national and local collections which will tell the story of some of the great figures in Lincolnshire’s history. It will contain marvellous topographical views and treasures from Lincolnshire houses and churches. If local museums did not exist, one could not stage that sort of exhibition.

I make a simple plea to my noble friend who will wind up the debate. No country can begin to call itself civilised if it does not maintain its great historic buildings and sustain its local museums and collections. That, I hope, is something on which we can all agree, wherever in the House we sit. I end by again wishing the noble Lord, Lord Monks, success with a museum which I still hope to visit.

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am grateful to my friend Lord Monks for securing this debate on the future of regional museums. It gives me the opportunity to join him in making a plea to the Chancellor and the DCMS to revisit the coalition Government’s 2010 decision to “relinquish control and sponsorship”—or, in non-weasel words, “cut funding”—for non-national museums, as they see it.

Why? Because the policy has ended up directly impacting on just one institution—the Manchester-based People’s History Museum. The other six affected institutions continue to receive public funds, whether directly or indirectly. On the face of it, the change in “sponsorship” arrangements looks incredibly vindictive. What is it about the People’s History Museum that Ministers dislike? Is it because of the museum’s focus on working people’s campaigns for rights in the workplace, equal and fair pay and the right to vote? If that is the case, I cannot think of a worse time to do this, with 100 days to go until the general election—a time when issues such as zero-hours contracts, migrant worker exploitation and the non-registration of poorer voters are all stark reminders that stories of working people’s struggles are as relevant now as they ever were.

The People’s History Museum is not just culturally important, it is economically important and viable. It is an incredibly good value-for-money investment. It raises grants locally, generates commercial sponsorship and donations and gets support from Greater Manchester’s local authorities. Taking away 15% of its budget in one go, when interest and visitor numbers are rising by 10% plus a year, would be a travesty.

It is often said that all history, like politics, is local. We should also celebrate, when and where we can, the work of small local and regional museums. Therefore, I will spend a moment or two reminding colleagues of such institutions and the value they bring to learning and understanding, and regeneration. Back in 1990, as Labour’s leader in Brighton, I inherited a shambolic mess of a seafront, with little vision or idea of its place in what was then sometimes seen as a declining seaside town. That year, as leader of the council, I persuaded a socialist visionary, Andy Durr, to become a councillor once again. He had a plan to turn our seafront around with a mix of public and private money.

Central to this was a “people’s history” of the work and struggles of the local fishing community and its contribution to our city by the sea. That initiative, still developing 20 years on, was clever. Brighton now has a vibrant seafront cultural quarter populated by arts and artisans, quality seafood outlets, galleries, bars and 24-hour basketball. Our city was regenerated and part of its heritage restored—a people’s history rediscovered, reinvented and put to work.

History does not record whether the current Chancellor ever met Andy Durr when he was mayor, but if Mr Osborne had done so he would have learnt the value of investing in living heritage. Just like the People’s History Museum, Brighton’s Fishing Museum is one piece in a larger national jigsaw. Losing one part of that puzzle is not just frustrating; it means that the whole picture misses out and is never quite complete. Removing support from the People’s History Museum will be a loss not only to Manchester and the Labour movement but to our national story.

My Lords, I have a proposal: move the DCMS to Manchester. Some parts of the BBC are up there, it is not the end of the world and the quality of life for X amount of income is higher than it is for many people in London.

I should like to follow a remark of my noble friend Lord Sawyer. There is semantic confusion about the word “regional”, as if something cannot be national if it is in a region. People describe this debate as being about regional museums. I put a question to the Minister: apart from moving the DCMS to Manchester, does he agree that it is nonsense to say that a museum cannot be a national museum if it is in Manchester or anywhere other than London?

I labour this point because the funding criteria are dangerously close to being taken into this black hole of semantic confusion. Those criteria are to do with national museums. Does the Minister think that the criteria are being correctly applied by the DCMS, or is it because senior DCMS officialdom and Ministers are London-oriented and so cannot see that the criteria are being misapplied? The criteria are that if something is not national it receives a different funding flow, yet “national” can equal Manchester.

My noble friend Lord Monks is certainly not just pressing a special case, although I totally identify with it. I pick up a remark by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for whom I have the highest admiration; he was for many years chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Arts and Heritage Group, of which I am proud to be vice-chairman. Now the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, who lives in Yorkshire, is the chairman. We have the immense privilege of going on visits all around London. It can, of course, be said that the British Museum is not just a national museum but a world museum. London has a total quasi-monopoly of all the greatest national museums, yet even now the number of people living in London is not exactly 80% of the population of the United Kingdom.

I close by quoting Melvyn Bragg—the noble Lord, Lord Bragg—who noted in a broadcast that capital cities should irrigate rather than drain. This is the issue that we have reached in the broader context in this country at the moment: an imbalance in Britain. “Rebalancing our cultural capital” is not a play on words; it means moving the capital.

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Monks, and very much welcome his initiative in having this debate on the role of regional museums and his passionate support for the People’s History Museum.

However, I would like to focus on a slightly different issue—not on regional museums such as the People’s History Museum, which ought to be funded nationally, but on the plight of local museums and galleries. The one that is very close to my own heart is the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle, where I was brought up.

When I was a young lad, the museum was a haven of peace and a window on a much wider world, and it played a very important part in my growing up. Since then, it has greatly expanded and become a wonderful modern museum of border history, Roman history and Carlisle’s history as a railway city. It also has a lot of very good 19th-century art, including some Pre-Raphaelites, and a very good natural history section.

But the financial situation that the museum faces is extremely serious. It is supported by Carlisle City Council, and in 2010 Carlisle was able to afford to give the museum £1.2 million. Under the current financial plan, that support will fall to £750,000 next year, and if the pressure on local authorities gets even more serious, it could fall further. I do not see any way in which a local museum and gallery like Tullie House can survive without municipal support; there simply is no alternative. Tullie House was built in the days when there were wealthy people in Carlisle such as mill owners and factory owners who were able to endow the museum. That is no longer the case in our hollowed-out regional economy, I am afraid. Public support is therefore absolutely essential.

Could I make three quick suggestions? First, the Arts Council must prioritise much more out-of-London galleries and museums. For the big national institutions in London, it is not as though the streets are paved with gold, but there is much more opportunity for obtaining sponsorship. Secondly, the national institutions should support local galleries much more in lending them artefacts and exhibits so that they can have popular exhibitions. Thirdly, the role of local culture and museums in economic development should be recognised in promoting tourism, and in the budgets that are available for economic development, priority should be given to promoting cultural activities in the regions.

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Monks, for securing this debate—and what an interesting debate it has been. I am sure that your Lordships will understand that I very much regret the indisposition of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and we very much look forward to his early return.

There are an estimated 2,500 museums in the United Kingdom: independent museums owned by registered charities and other independent bodies; local authority museums, owned by town, parish, city, or county councils; university museums; regional museums; and national museums. The DCMS directly sponsors 16 museums and galleries, 13 of which are national museums—the presence of which spans the country. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, and the noble Lords, Lord Lennie and Lord Lea of Crondall, took us all to task about the importance of museums outside London. I thought it was worth saying that National Museums Liverpool represents a wide range of cultural interest in the area. The Royal Armouries, the Tate, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum all have sites outside London. The Royal Armouries has sites in Leeds and Portsmouth, the Tate has galleries in Cornwall and Liverpool, and the Natural History Museum has a collection in Tring. In total, DCMS has funded £2 billion for the 15 museums and the British Library over the life of this Parliament.

In addition, the Government also provide funding to museums in the regions through the Arts Council, which is the development organisation for English regional museums, responsible for helping to support museums across the country. The Arts Council directly funds 16 significant regional museums, which are considered to be major partners. These act as examples of best practice in management and curation of collections, and play an important leadership role through partnerships with other museums and galleries in their regions. In total, the Arts Council has funded £200 million in grant in aid towards support of its major partner museums over the life of this Parliament. Partners include the York Museums Trust, Manchester City Galleries and the Penlee House Gallery and Museum in Cornwall.

My noble friend Lord Eccles spoke of the Bowes Museum. I was interested to see that the two museums in County Durham, the Bowes Museum and the Beamish Museum, will jointly receive £2,180,748 over the period 2015-18, for instance. In addition to the major partners it funds, the Arts Council also administers a variety of other grants, including a museum resilience fund worth £10 million in 2015-16. This aims to support a step change for the sector by enabling regional museums to become more sustainable and resilient businesses, focusing on development opportunities across the sector and recognising that excellence and the potential for excellence can be found in museums of all sizes.

A number of noble Lords raised the hugely important issue of benefactors and philanthropy. I absolutely take the point that some London museums have been extremely successful; we want to ensure that this success is replicated across the country. The Arts Council takes its responsibility for supporting museums across the country extremely seriously and balances funding across the whole country. That is very important. A number of noble Lords talked about a lack of balance. All I am hearing at the briefings I get from the Arts Council is that it is absolutely clear about the need to ensure that the regions are well supported. We should also remember the huge contribution made by the Heritage Lottery Fund to support museums and galleries through capital projects and through their various funding streams, which support skills development and acquisitions.

The noble Lord, Lord Monks, rightly mentioned the museum that he has worked so tirelessly for. The fund recently awarded £95,000 of funding to the People’s History Museum, through its Collecting Cultures programme, to enable the museum to take forward its Voting for Change project, focusing on the movements and campaigns for the franchise. Last December, Museums Sheffield successfully applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £697,000 to support Weston Park museum’s A Bright Future project. The Government also provide support to small capital projects in many museums through their partnership with the Wolfson Foundation. Most of the funding from that partnership has been distributed outside London.

The Government’s review of non-departmental public bodies in 2010 examined a number of government-funded museums and their continued direct funding from government. As a result of this, it was decided that five museums would cease to be funded directly by DCMS. Of these, the funding responsibility for three was transferred; the Museum of Science and Industry was transferred to the Science Museum Group, and the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, rightly mentioned what I think I can call her museum, the National Coal Mining Museum, which also now receives funding from the Science Museum Group. The Tyne and Wear Archives and Museum had its government funding channelled through the Arts Council, as it already received Arts Council funding as a major partner museum. All these museums have continued to thrive, bringing in increasing number of visitors.

It was decided, as a number of noble Lords have said, that DCMS should relinquish sponsorship of the Design Museum and the People’s History Museum. The Design Museum is now well advanced in its plans to relocate to the former Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington in order to expand its activities, a move that it will complete in 2016. Many noble Lords have spoken tonight about the People’s History Museum. The Government recognise the People’s History Museum and many other museums as important custodians in caring for their collections and encouraging access to, and awareness of, many aspects of our cultural and social history on which the objects, archives and artworks can help throw a light. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Sawyer, spoke extremely powerfully about these issues.

The People’s History Museum has been identified by its designated status as an outstanding collection, as have around 130 other collections across the country. It has a great deal to offer both at national and local level, and this is recognised by its strong public support. I commend the museum for its proactive approach to managing its situation. I note that government funding has never been the primary source of funding for the People’s History Museum; indeed, it is a museum that it is very successful in its own right at working with other agencies to access funding sources. I noted what the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said about political motivation. From the briefings I have seen I do not think that the museum’s director feels that that is the motivation. That ought to be put on record.

This debate is extraordinarily timely: the department has engaged with the People’s History Museum and the Arts Council over the museum’s future arrangements. I am pleased to confirm announcements that the department will make £100,000 available for the People’s History Museum for 2015-16. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Monks, for expressing his welcome for that. It will be channelled through the Arts Council and is intended to help the museum as it moves towards a new and sustainable model of funding.

I would be the first to accept that difficult decisions have to be made. Indeed, many museum services will, of necessity, be considering how best to respond to these challenges through efficiencies and innovative and creative ideas. There is clearly an opportunity to encourage the development of philanthropic funding and to build a healthier and more diverse funding model for museums. My noble friend Lord Eccles referred to what the Bowes Museum has been doing. I think the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, referred to the need to ensure that this mix of funding can be replicated across the country, not just in London.

Our national collections do not operate in a vacuum from the rest of the sector. They lead and are partners in hundreds of collaborative projects with museums, heritage and community organisations and educational establishments across the country. The sector is committed to increasing the wealth of loans across the county. The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, and my noble friend Lord Cormack in particular referred to that. I was particularly struck by what the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, said about Carlisle and what my noble friend said about Hull and how important museums are to young people. The local museum is very often the beginning of a very long adventure and enjoyment. Many of these partnerships are based on the loan of objects, such as the Great Bed of Ware going from the V&A to Ware Museum. There was a huge increase in the numbers that visited Ware Museum because of that. There are many other examples.

There is also a focus on the sharing of skills, expertise, education and learning, and working with communities. Participation with museums can bring many benefits to individuals and communities, including as learning resources. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, referred to schools, but schools and health services can all benefit from their relationships with their local museum. National Museums Liverpool has recently been at the forefront of this with its House of Memories project, which provides training to carers of people living with dementia.

Museums and their contents are at the heart of our culture and heritage. They are extremely important to the nation. Not only our regional museums, which I mention specifically because that phrase was in the title of the debate, but all museums have such an important role to play. Regional museums provide a world-class cultural service to communities around the country, and, in partnership with national and Arts Council major partner museums, there is a great future for them. Much of the main thrust of the debate, which was so ably led by the noble Lord, Lord Monks, was about the People’s History Museum, but I wish all the museums well. These are challenging times, but, having met a number of people from the sector, I think they are extraordinarily creative and able. We are extremely lucky to have such capable people running our museums.