The National Assembly for Wales: Motion NDM6627 Julie James

Jan 23, 2018 | Articles, Assembly Business, Cardiff, Constituency Issues, Videos | 0 comments

Plenary 23rd January 2018

17:39
Watch on Senedd TV

Motion NDM6627 Julie James

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:

1. Notes the publication of the review of Amgueddfa Cymru—National Museum Wales.

2. Welcomes the report’s positivity regarding the standard of our National Museum and the quality of the work carried out by staff.

3. Recognises the issues identified and acknowledges that Amgueddfa Cymru and the Welsh Government must work in partnership to address the recommendations within the report.

Motion moved.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Thanks to the Minister for bringing today’s debate. I haven’t yet had any formal contact with the new Minister, either in the Chamber or in committee, so I’d like to officially welcome him into his new role. I think we all feel, certainly in this section of the Chamber—by which I mean the UKIP seats—that he has shown a lot of promise, and I believe he could be a valuable addition to the Government’s ministerial team. I have certainly marked his name down as somebody with a bright future in Government.

On to today’s matters. I’ve heard what the other contributors have said, but I want to go slightly further than the Thurley review and float a more contentious idea. I appreciate that there has been a commitment from the Welsh Government to the principle of free entry to the national museum network. I don’t want to unduly restrict people’s access to these museums, but I think it is possible that we could consider stretching this principle slightly so that Amguedda Cymru can generate some income and operate more effectively. A token charge of £1 for adults to enter a museum, with children going free, would not, I feel, put off parents who are considering visiting a museum as part of a family day out. Of course, there could be an argument, then, as to what will stop this £1 charge from rising and rising until it becomes exorbitant. Well, as the museums are a public facility—and will still largely be publicly financed with a grant from the Welsh Government still being the main source of income—then, surely, the Government can draw up terms under which the charge can only rise annually in line with the consumer price index, the measure of inflation that tends to rise at a lower rate than the retail price index.

There is also the issue of special exhibitions. To get many of these exhibitions to come to Wales will take considerable effort in terms of time and cost, so I feel that Amgueddfa Cymru should be able to try and recoup some of this cost by charging extra for access to these exhibitions, or at least certain ones. I appreciate what Suzy said earlier—she didn’t want to have a look at what happens in London—

Suzy Davies AM

Suzy Davies AM

Title: Commissioner Party: Welsh Conservative Party

Well, I didn’t quite say that.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Okay, sorry. I might have slightly simplified what you said. Anyway, I’m going to have a look at what happens in London.

To get into the Victoria and Albert Museum is free, but entry to special exhibitions—and there are always numerous special exhibitions on at the V&A—currently ranges from £8 to £19. Now, we have to remember that entry to the V&A’s general displays is free. So, they are perhaps having to charge fairly large amounts for the special exhibitions, at least in part, to cross-subsidise the free entry to the rest of the museum. Now, if you had the token £1 charge, you wouldn’t perhaps have to do that. You could have a different financial model and you could perhaps charge £5 for the special exhibitions. You could raise money in other ways as well.

The museum in St Fagans, which I will persist in calling the Welsh national folk museum, has recently been refurbished—

Lee Waters AM

Lee Waters AM

Party: Welsh Labour

Why?

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Well, I’ll go on to that, Lee. I will tell you later.

It has recently been refurbished with the addition of a new main building, a craft workshop and other facilities. The new building contains an enlarged cafe, activity and event spaces, some of which can be hired out to groups, and a bigger gift shop. So, this will hopefully help the museum at St Fagans to raise more revenue, and is therefore a welcome development and one that could be followed by the other museums under the umbrella of Amgueddfa Cymru.

Now, to raise Lee’s point, I mentioned the old name of the St Fagans museum, which was what I knew it as growing up. It has since been called the Museum of Welsh Life, and is now, I see, named the St Fagans National Museum of History—neither of which are as evocative as the original name, in my opinion. Can I therefore issue a plea to the museums to keep their evocative, original names? Because I also noticed that—

Lee Waters AM

Lee Waters AM

Party: Welsh Labour

Like the National Front.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

No, not that. The maritime museum, as was, is now called the National Waterfront Museum. Before long, we will have the Big Pit National Coal Museum changing its name into the ‘National Industry Museum’ or some similarly anodyne title. I sometimes wonder who dreams these name changes up. Every time you change a name, you will lose potential customers because you are changing a well-known brand. I think there is a strong commercial case for sticking with the name that is already familiar to many people. However, I can see that I’m no expert in this field. [Interruption.] Yes, I do. These kinds of decisions certainly, though, should fall under the oversight of somebody like a commercial director. I see that the Thurley review is calling for Amgueddfa Cymru to bring in a commercial director, and I would strongly endorse that call. Diolch yn fawr iawn.