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The Arts

Volume 887: debated on Tuesday 4 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he has received representations from members of Equity and supporters of the living theatre concerning financial support for the arts; and if he will make a statement.

The Arts Council and I receive frequent representations from supporters of the living theatre, many of whom are members of Equity, over financial support for the arts. The Government's concern to maintain standards in a field in which the living theatre is a major part is demonstrated by the presentation of two Supplementary Estimates last year, of £0·75 million and £1·75 million respectively, for the Arts Council, and the proposed grant of £26·15 million for 1975–76 which I anounced in the answer I gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) yesterday. As he knows, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is considering the question of VAT and the theatre.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he has given, or intends to give, evidence to the Annan Committee on the potential opportunities for the arts in an expanded television service.

I am considering giving evidence to the committee on the relationship between broadcasting and the arts.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps he is taking to ensure that the subsidised arts reach the widest possible audience.

First, the Arts Council has increased the proportion of its grant for activities outside London and this amounts now to two-thirds. Second, the council has increased its support for arts in the regions by about 20 per cent. over the previous year and plans further to increase the grant next year. The effect of these measures has been that the four national companies now receive about one-quarter of the grant compared with over half 10 years ago. The council has strengthened its arrangements for giving advice on publicity measures and consideration is being given to the wider use of television to enable the work of the major national companies to be more widely known. Among other things, arrangements for encouraging the touring of the national companies are also being made.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will take steps to ensure that those historic buildings which form part of the national heritage and are in public ownership are widely used to house the subsidised arts for which he is responsible.

It is the duty of the trustees of the national collections to arrange for the exhibition of their collections in the most effective way. Problems of safe custody, skilled care and supervision, and the provision of the right environmental conditions severely restrict the possibility of display outside the national museums and galleries. Where, however, trustees are satisfied that these conditions are met they are, subject to their statutory or other powers, free to consider display elsewhere. An example of such an arrangement is the display now being arranged in Montacute House of a selection of portraits of the 16th and 17th centuries from the National Portrait Gallery. I shall study the success of this experiment to see how far it can be commended in other circumstances. At the present time, however, additional resources to finance such developments are restricted. Important parts of the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum are already displayed in Apsley, Ham and Osterley Houses.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps he is taking to obtain finance for the arts in addition to Exchequer grants to the Arts Council and local authority patronage.

The contributions to the arts made by the general public—via the box office—and from contributions to bodies such as the National Art Collections Fund and the Contemporary Art Society, as well as to specific appeals for the acquisition of works of art, will always remain an important part of resources for the arts. Regional arts associations, themselves independent bodies, obtain a significant part of their income from private sources. It is right that this measure of independence should be sustained. I have no doubt that this support and support from industry will continue to be forthcoming.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps he proposes to take to ensure that industrial patronage for the arts is encouraged and publicity recognised.