British Museum Reading Room

Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd December 1959.

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Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson Mr Kenneth Robinson , St Pancras North 12:00 am, 3rd December 1959

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has now received proposals from the trustees of the British Museum with regard to an extension of the hours during which either the Museum as a whole, or the Reading Room, is open to the public; and what reply he has made.

Photo of Sir Isaac Pitman Sir Isaac Pitman , Bath

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the fact that the sum which has already accrued to the British Museum as its share of the estate of the late Bernard Shaw is £163,924 10s. 5d., and in view of the fact that under the terms of the will this bequest was made in acknowledgment of the value to the testator of his daily resort to the Reading Room at the beginning of his career, whether he will inform the trustees of the British Museum that he will now view sympathetically proposals from them calculated to improve the services of the Reading Room.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

asked the Secretary to the Treasury what proposals he has now received from the trustees of the British Museum for keeping the Reading Room open in the evenings for the benefit of students who otherwise cannot make use of its facilities; and what assistance he will give to the implementation of these proposals.

Photo of Sir Edward Boyle Sir Edward Boyle , Birmingham Handsworth

I understand that the British Museum Trustees have for some time been considering the possibility of some measure of evening opening of the Reading Room and that on their directions a scheme is being prepared which will shortly be submitted to the Treasury.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson Mr Kenneth Robinson , St Pancras North

As the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that any scheme would be sympathetically considered, when may a favourable reply be expected by the Trustees?

Photo of Sir Edward Boyle Sir Edward Boyle , Birmingham Handsworth

I cannot give a definite date this afternoon, but I can promise the hon. Gentleman that there will not be any unnecessary delay.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the scheme proposed is likely to suggest opening the Reading Room of the Museum for only three days a week? Does not he think that, while this matter is being dealt with, the necessary financial arrangements should be made to enable the Reading Room to be open in the evenings for five days a week?

Photo of Sir Edward Boyle Sir Edward Boyle , Birmingham Handsworth

I cannot add more this afternoon. I, too, have read the references which have appeared in the Press. The Government know that hon. Members on both sides attach importance to this. As soon as a proposition is made, we shall look at it very carefully in all its aspects.

Later

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

I think that the hon. Member was not here when Question No. 40 was answered. It was answered with Question No. 24. If the hon. Member was here at that time, I did not see him.

Photo of Sir Isaac Pitman Sir Isaac Pitman , Bath

On a point of order. May we have your ruling, Mr. Speaker, about the question of relationship between different Questions? As I see it, I had no reason to suppose that the two Questions were in any way related, since my Question deals with the encouragement of donations to the State by testators for such things as the British Museum.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

I hope that I act in accordance with the practice of the House in this matter. I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's difficulty. When an hon. Member's Question is answered with another Question in his absence, there is great difficulty in having it asked again at a later stage. I will confer with my advisers in order to confirm my view in case it be an illusion on my part that in adopting that system I am following the practice of the House.