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Arts Expenditure

Volume 981: debated on Monday 17 March 1980

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27.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he is satisfied with the level of Government spending on the arts.

33.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he will make a statement about the level of Government spending on the arts.

The House will be glad to know that in the expenditure plans for 1980–81 which I shall be submitting for parliamentary approval, I intend to provide for a grant of £70 million to the Arts Council of Great Britain.

I do not intend to be churlish to the right hon. Gentleman. I thank him for his reply. However, is he aware that the £9 million increase does not make up for the cut of £1¼ million in the arts grant that the Government made on taking office or for the 20 per cent. inflation rate from which the labour- intensive arts are suffering acutely? Is he also aware that, as his hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) pointed out, the increase nowhere near meets the doubling of VAT on the arts? What prospect can the right hon. Gentleman hold out for an improvement in the situation?

I would be the last person to accuse the hon. Lady of being churlish to myself, but she is perhaps being less than her usual generous self on these matters. The increase in the Arts Council grant amounts to £11.75 million and we hope that the inflation rate will not be 20 per cent. for this year. The £11.75 million represents an increase of 20 per cent. and I think that that is a fair deal for the arts. Of course, I should much rather see an even bigger grant, but I think that the hon. Lady will agree on reflection that, in the circumstances, the arts have not done too badly.

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his answer? However, will he bear in mind that it would be helpful next year if the Arts Council could know of the Government's intentions just a little earlier?

I think that that is a fair point. I thank my hon. Friend for his more than generous remarks, which make up for my disappointment with the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short), with her less than generous ones. During the year expenditure reviews have taken place. In fact, the announcement has been made earlier than the general announcement on public expenditure. The Arts Council receives an earlier informal notification. I hope that next year there will be different circumstances and that we shall be able to get these matters over earlier.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should temper his euphoria and even show a little penitence. This grant does not meet the inflation rate and the likely inflation rate under this Government's policies. Perhaps he should recall—[Interruption.) I do not need any help from either side of the House on this.

Order. I am in the middle. Therefore, the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) meant "Will he".

I am most grateful for your assistance, Mr. Speaker. I was about to rephrase that, but the sight of the right hon. Gentleman so incenses me. Will he recall—if he wants to make comparisons—the very poor performance of his grant this year compared with the five years 1974–79 of the Labour Government when the increase was 250 per cent.?

The hon. Gentleman is not right. The increase in money terms was not 250 per cent. but 225 per cent.

In real terms it was 63 per cent. That is very similar to the rates of increase achieved by the previous Government. We are in a different situation now. During a period of cutback in Government expenditure we can all be proud of this year's arts grant. As for penitence, no doubt I have a great deal to be sorry for. like most people. When the lion. Gentleman makes an act of contrition for his sins, I shall happily join him.