Speeches recovered from the Conservative party’s online archive More…

Francis: Wales needs a National Art Gallery

Conservatives back Welsh arts projects.

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales

"The Assembly Government's policy to ensure free access to museums and galleries has proved to be extremely popular and the Conservative Party supports that policy.

Since this policy was implemented and entrance fees abolished, the number of visitors to St Fagans has doubled. St Fagans charges parking fees in order to cover the museum and car park maintenance costs.

However, since the entrance fees were abolished, people expect the whole package to be free. Therefore, charging for parking makes the Assembly's policy laughable.

People now expect free entrance, which encourages families with children to visting educational sites and we should all support that.

Given that St Fagans is outside the city centre and since public transport is so poor, people have to use their cars to reach the museum.

St Fagans is the largest visitor attraction in south Wales and this policy of charging for car parking will hit those on low incomes, old people and students and so on. Therefore, this policy means that entrance to St Fagans is no longer free of charge.

While public transport to St Fagans remains poor, we need to raise concerns about any car parking charges.

The Welsh Conservative Party wishes to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the importance of the work of all those in the national museums and galleries industry and to acknowledge the many improvements that have been made and which will, hopefully, continue in the future.

We also need to realise that, in Wales, a third of permanent museum collections are described as being in unsuitable stores by their curators, with several commenting on the poor environmental conditions and lack of space, according to the Council of Museums in Wales.

Research has shown that the vast majority of museum stores in Wales are too full and that none have more than 10 years of growth capacity.

Storage facilities at the National Museums and Galleries of Wales are in such poor condition that The Western Mail reported on 22 April that a member of staff had fallen through the floor of one building, which had sustained water damage.

As has been said, a report by the Auditor General for Wales found that almost half the museum's collection is at risk because of inadequate storage. That document, published on 21 April, revealed that only one-third of the museum's collection is held on computerised records.

At the Museum of Welsh Life in St Fagans, many storage areas are so full that they cannot be accessed by staff. It would take 20 members of staff 20 years to clear the museum's conservation backlog. With less than 1 per cent of the museum's collection of 4.7 million items on display at any given time, it means that millions of pounds worth of objects, from paintings and locomotives to shells and coins, are therefore kept in storage.

Surely, it is high time, Minister, that you fulfilled the Labour Government's manifesto commitment of providing Wales with a dedicated national art gallery. You indicated that it was a manifesto commitment in your exchange with Nick Bourne in the Chamber on 5 May.

The Arts Council of Wales has not included a funding bid for that in its current corporate plan, as it was regarded as a medium-term strategy.

Exactly when, Minister, will this strategy come to fruition between now and the end of your Government's tenure of office? We need an answer.

The public in Wales is being denied the chance to see some of the country's greatest works of art because of the lack of a dedicated national art gallery.

Such an institution would be a huge asset. It is a gallery that would be linked to other galleries in Wales, and where Welsh art could be displayed. Wales's art collections cannot be truly appreciated if items are locked in vaults, swathed in dust-proof covers, or, worse still, inaccessible to curators and, more importantly, liable to damage.

We believe that a national art gallery for Wales should be managed by a single organisation, comprising the national museum and the national art gallery, which would be connected, as I said, to a network of museums and galleries around Wales.

Such a move would not take anything away, or detract from, the other galleries in Wales, such as Oriel Môn, Oriel Mostyn or the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery."

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech