I have looked into the matter and note that the National Gallery is responsible for its own staffing arrangements. I understand there is an ongoing modernisation programme and I know that my colleagues in Government believe the gallery is doing what is needed to provide a service that meets the needs of the public today.
The gallery has a duty to protect, preserve and curate its priceless collection, and to preserve free access to its galleries. I am pleased that the Government has been able to maintain free access to the permanent collections of our national museums. However, the gallery also has to provide a relevant service to the public-a public whose demands have changed over the years. Visitors have different and high expectations of the gallery, and the current staffing arrangements mean that the gallery cannot provide a guaranteed level of service outside the restrictive set of standard hours.
The gallery has been seeking a partner to manage the provision of some of its visitor facing services. It is important to note that any contract signed with a supplier will be subject to Transfer of Undertakings, Protection of Employment 2006 in order to protect the terms, conditions and interests of any staff who transfer to the new supplier. I know that the gallery favours a partnering approach so that any company employed will become embedded in the Gallery and work in collaboration to develop the future services.
I am pleased to note that the National Gallery is fully committed to providing an excellent visitor service experience and supporting its staff, and it is my understanding that the proposed change is intended to preserve, enhance and extend the services provided, while enabling improved pay and conditions. I can assure you that I will monitor the situation closely.