Victoria and Albert and Science Museums

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Science – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th July 1982.

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Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , Preston North 12:00 am, 5th July 1982

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he proposes to implement the Rayner recommendations on the future of the Victoria and Albert and Science museums.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

As I told my Friend the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Waller) on 27 May, the Government have accepted the recommendation of the Rayner scrutiny that the Victoria and Albert and Science museums should cease to be departmental museums. We shall be seeking an early opportunity to introduce legislation to establish separate bodies of trustees to manage and control each museum. Decisions on the other recommendations will be taken after the consultations are over.

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , Preston North

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will not abandon the theatre museum project, which is based in the Victoria and Albert museum, because it would be a tragedy not to remain committed to it, even if we cannot go ahead in the immediate future?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I shall certainly consider what my hon. Friend has said. We are holding widespread consultations on this matter, and the views of hon. Members will be very welcome.

Photo of Mr Fergus Montgomery Mr Fergus Montgomery , Altrincham and Sale

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that if the theatre museum were allowed to charge for admission it would not be a drain on public funds? Could not the project go ahead on those lines?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

One of the suggestions in the Rayner scrutiny is that the museum should be self-supporting. The Government are also considering that. I shall bear in mind my hon. Friend's point.

Photo of Mr Christopher Murphy Mr Christopher Murphy , Welwyn and Hatfield

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the implementation of these proposals might pave the way towards the sensible introduction of charging, as Rayner suggests?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

The Government have decided that it would be wrong to prejudge any proposals that the future trustees may put forward. Certainly I should not wish to impose charges against the trustees' wishes. If they come forward with sensible suggestions, the Government will consider them on their merits.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

Does the Minister agree that one of the problems of implementing the unacceptable face of the Rayner report—the proposal that there should be charges for viewing all, or part, of the collections in those museums—is that it will resurrect one of the previous Conservative Government's most bankrupt and discredited policies? We had hoped that he would be civilised enough to realise that if museums charge for admission, those whom we most want to encourage will be discouraged.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

It is very nice to welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new position, but, with great respect, his first question does not show a realisation of the facts. Charges are already made in large portions of our museums. Local museums have been able to charge for years, and outstations and special exhibitions in the national museums have charged for many years, under both Governments.