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Volume 975: debated on Monday 3 December 1979

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asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he is satisfied that enough is being done to decentralise the availability of the publicly funded arts.

A great deal has already been done, but the Arts Council and Welsh Arts Council are alive to the need to keep the position constantly under review, given the resources and facilities available.

Does the Minister accept that many of the arts are still over centralised in London, particularly live theatre and some of the visual arts? Will he give an assurance that if there is any restriction on finance for the arts it will not in any way stop a move towards greater decentralisation?

Certain things have to be centralised in London. However, the Arts Council, with my full support, is concentrating more and more of its finances on the regions. The proportion of the Arts Council budget for England and Wales that is invested in the regions has grown from one-third 20 years ago to two-thirds at the present time. That is a development which I welcome.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, apart from the arts decentralising, the touring of nationally based opera, as well as orchestral work and theatre, faces the threat of cuts? Does he further agree that private patronage can hardly replace that, since the only notable recent example was his snaffling of the portrait of Cardinal Newman into his private office?

The private sector has made a notable contribution towards helping the Welsh National Opera to come to London. That has shown people here the high standards of that opera company, and it has been an important contribution. Certainly I support touring by the various opera companies but, in the ultimate event, it is a decision for the Arts Council and not for me.

Has my right hon. Friend made any estimate of the number of paintings and other works of art in the capital that are kept permanently out of public sight? Could some of these he lent to the provinces?

It is the policy of the various national museums to lend their pictures to the provinces, and that again is something that I welcome.