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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.