National Theatre Museum and Museum of Childhood

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Science – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th October 1982.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , Isle of Ely 12:00 am, 18th October 1982

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement regarding the future of the National Theatre museum.

Photo of Mr Michael Neubert Mr Michael Neubert , Romford

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he has yet reached any conclusion on the proposals for the closure of the Museum of Childhood and abandonment of the Theatre museum project.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I announced on 11 August the Government's conclusion that the proposed Theatre museum project in the Old Flower Market in London's Covent Garden should go ahead and that the Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, should be retained.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , Isle of Ely

Will the Minister accept that we are grateful to him for his courtesy in meeting the pro-museum delegation, that we congratulate him on his part in saving the project, and trust that he and his Department will now put all their good wishes behind the project?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his kind remarks. I assure him that we are determined that the project shall go ahead.

Photo of Mr Michael Neubert Mr Michael Neubert , Romford

I trust that my right hon. Friend is in no doubt about the gratitude of all of us who are concerned with these museums for the action he has taken to secure their future. However, does he agree that the proposals for closure, which went beyond the question of whether the museums are wastefully run to the political question of whether they should be run at all, have unnecessarily raised doubts about Government support for the arts? Will he adopt the quickest means of removing those doubts, by ensuring an adequate allocation for the Arts Council next year?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

There is, I believe, a separate question on the Order Paper about that matter. No one can be under any doubt about the Government's support for the arts. If the Government had not bothered to support the arts, they would not have taken these two decisions. I was impressed, as were the whole Government, by the strength of representations from both sides of the House.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

The decision is to be welcomed. On reflection, however, does the Minister really believe that Rayner scrutiny exercises of this kind, carried out by a single, retired civil servant looking partially into the museum problem without taking an overall view, are serious and sensible?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

One would obviously have to reflect before carrying that proposition further. I believe that the report that the House had to consider was a serious step. It raised serious issues which serious people had to consider before coming to decide a rational allocation of funds. I should like to take this opportunity of saying that much of the criticism of the scrutineer who carried out the report was most unfair.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , Staffordshire South West

Is my right hon. Friend aware that members of the Select Committee are grateful to him for acting so speedily on their recommendations? Can we expect that he will act with similar sympathetic expedition on the report to be published tomorrow?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

Is that not what is called a hypothetical question? We have not seen the report. Naturally, I shall do my best to keep on good terms with the Select Committee.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

I also congratulate the Minister on the decision that he took. I thank him also for seeing the Labour Party delegation that visited him. Whatever he says in the House now, his decision will be seen as a proper rebuff to Mr. Burrett for his report. Will the Minister therefore publicly dissociate himself from recommendation 12 of Mr. Burrett's proposals to the effect that the two museums which were examined should now begin to charge, wholly or in part, for access to their collections?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government have announced that we do not intend to impose charges for general admission to the main collections of museums. I do not wish, however, to prejudge the proposals that future trustees of museums might put forward as part of their policy for the good management of the museums. I do not wish to impose charges against the wishes of the museums.