§ Not amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
I think that we ought to have a few more words from the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland before we say farewell to this Bill It has been exceedingly difficult, of course, to raise any question at all on the Bill thanks to the uncooperative attitude of the Government. In fact, it was not until the final stages in Committee that we actually discovered what the Bill did. We then learned that it was intended to fill a gap in the 1906 Act.
Under the 1906 Act it was possible for the Secretary of State to prescribe functions other than those mentioned in the Bill to be performed by the trustees of the art galleries. But, unfortunately, the 1906 Act never made any provision for enabling Parliament to vote money with which to carry out those functions. Therefore, for 53 years the Government have had power to do certain things, or at least to instruct the trustees to carry out certain functions, but have not had the means of providing the money for those functions.
I am bound to say that it does not speak very highly of what the Government have tried to do in the realm of art that they should have required 53 years to discover that they had no money with which to carry out the functions of the 1906 Act—no power to get the money with which to carry out the functions of the Act. It took 53 years to discover that. Obviously, therefore, the Government have not been very concerned about encouraging art in Scotland. That is the first point I wish to make.
Having discovered five minutes before the end of the Committee proceedings what the Bill actually did, we then in the last few minutes of the sitting tried to get some answers to a few questions 392 during the final speech of the Joint Under-Secretary. We asked him whether, in fact, the Secretary of State would be willing to consider some of the many suggestions made during the Second Reading debate and would give effect to them. The hon. Gentleman did not reply to that question.
One of the Amendments which we had down on the Notice Paper in Committee, and which was not in order, sought to providesuitable additional buildings in Edinburgh or elsewhere for the wider display of national art treasures for the benefit of the people of Scotland.That seemed to be a reasonable thing to request.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
It may have been very reasonable, but it cannot be debated on Third Reading.
§ Mr. Willis
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but the Bill actually provides the Government with the money with which to do these things. It enables the Secretary of State to obtain the money from the House with which to carry out all the functions mentioned in the original Act. I submit, therefore, that we are in order to ask the Joint Under-Secretary what functions he intends to carry out when once this Bill is passed. Is that not in order?
§ Mr. Willis
I was quoting one of the suggestions which have been made. We should like to know whether or not the Secretary of State is now prepared to consider this suggestion when he obtains the Bill. We also made the proposal that arrangements should be made for the wider distribution of pictures throughout Scotland and asked that the Secretary of State should give instructions to the Trustees about that. This Bill provides means whereby he can obtain money to do that. I think that is a correct interpretation of what the Bill does. I should like to know whether the Secretary of State will now consider this suggestion. What will he do in addition to the one proposal which has been made to give powers to the Trustees to look after the proposed art 393 gallery at Inverleith House? Will the Secretary of State look at the suggestions made during Second Reading and put some of the better ones into effect?
I should have thought it important that the Secretary of State should treat this matter seriously. We have had a number of reports on this question. Last week the Gulbenkian Committee reported that an effort should be made to spread our activities throughout the provinces. That Committee was looking at the subject as a whole and suggested how it could be done. As we pointed out during Second Reading, the same ought to be done for Scotland. We have had this Report since Second Reading, and it reinforces our argument. Is the Secretary of State prepared to do that when he has these powers?
Finally, I ask a question that we have asked several times. When does the right hon. Gentleman intend to proceed with the provision of a proper gallery for modern art in Scotland? Under this Bill he can now obtain the necessary money from Parliament for the purposes of running such a gallery. Apparently he could not do so before. The Ministry of Works could have built a beautiful art gallery for Scotland but the Secretary of State would not have had money with which to do anything about it and it has taken fifty-three years to discover that position. The desire is there and, if the Secretary of State would show the same desire to get something done, we should be happier. May we have an indication of when the Government intend to proceed with this project? It was considered to be one of the urgent necessities of the art world twenty-five years ago. We are still fobbed off with second-best and are given no indication of when the Government intend to proceed with the provision of a proper Scottish gallery of modern art. Will the Joint Under-Secretary tell us something about this, because in the final speech in Committee he said:This building up process will provide a collection of pictures to display in the Gallery of Modern Art to be built on the Queen Street site, if that is the site ultimately chosen."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Standing Committee, 23rd June, 1959; c. 22.]Have the Government had second thoughts about the announcement made 394 eight years ago? What are their present views? When are we to have the gallery? Will it be at least twenty-five years? We have never had answers to our questions on the subject. The Bill at least provides the means by which the gallery can be run. Surely the Minister can at least tell us what the Government have in view. How long are we to use Inverleith House, which the hon. Member himself admitted was only a temporary measure? How temporary?
Many people in Scotland would like to know this because we want this Scottish gallery of modern art quickly. At this time, eight years after the announcement was made about the Queen Street site, the Government ought to be able to tell us something more definite than we have been told during the previous proceedings on the Bill. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will answer some of the questions which I have asked him.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Niall Macpherson)
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) said that it was not until five minutes before the Committee stage ended that he learned what the Bill does. Had he done me the honour of listening to what I said on Second Reading he would have heard me say that when we were considering the Order which would have to be laid prescribing the management of the new gallery as a function of the trustees.we noticed that the Section of the 1906 Act which provides for expenditure out of voted moneys does not cover expenditure on any new functions which may be conferred on the trustees; it covers only the expenditure on the management of the galleries then under their control, that is, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery".Those provisions had been perfectly adequate for the fifty-three years during which the 1906 Act had existed. I went on to say:In any event the defect must be remedied before we can proceed further."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 4th June. 1959; c. 4.]The sole purpose of the Bill is to make it possible for moneys provided by Parliament to be used to pay not only for the management of the National Gallery of Scotland and the National Portrait Gallery, which can be done under 395 the National Galleries of Scotland Act, 1906, but also to meet expenditure incurred toy the board of trustees in connection withthe performance of such other functions as are conferred on them by or under this Act.In the course of the proceedings in Committee it has been made clear that the new power conferred is of a general character and is not limited to any particular project. I gather that the hon. Member is still not satisfied that the Bill gives adequate financial powers to match the other provisions of the 1906 Act. I can assure him that it does.
He asked me several questions. The first concerned the functions which the Secretary of State proposed to give to the trustees. The genesis of the Bill was that the Secretary of State proposed to add to the functions of the trustees the management of a gallery of modern art at Inverleith House. This is the genesis of the Bill and what we have considered so far, but naturally the Secretary of State will continue to watch carefully to see whether there are any further administrative gaps—we trust that there will be no further legislative gaps—to be found, and no doubt if there are it will be possible for the Secretary of State if necessary to make an order to add further functions to the trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether the Government had had second thoughts about the Queen Street site. I thought I made it quite clear in Committee that the Government had not altered the proposal announced in 1951 by the late Mr. Hector McNeil, but that the Queen Street site is not at present available—
§ Mr. Willis
Does the Secretary of State intend to consider the many suggestions made during the Second Reading for the better display of pictures throughout Scotland? Are those arguments considered good? After all, they have since been reinforced by a very powerful Committee. Will the Secretary of State give the trustees the powers necessary to ensure that the pictures are more widely displayed?
§ Mr. Macpherson
If it is necessary to give the trustees any further powers to enable pictures to be exhibited, those powers can be made available, but, as 396 I explained earlier, we do not think that it is necessary. Since before the 1906 Act it has been customary to arrange for pictures belonging to the National Gallery and to the National Portrait Gallery to be shown elsewhere.
To sum up, I would just say that the financial provisions now made are wide enough to cover any functions whatever, whether conferred directly by the Act or prescribed under the Act, and whatever may be thought of the purposes that the Secretary of State may have prescribed at the present time there is no doubt at all that the Bill will give us the necessary legislative powers to meet any conceivable demand.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.