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The Arts (Private Sponsorship)

Volume 981: debated on Monday 17 March 1980

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asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the latest results of his appeal to private sponsors for help in financing the arts.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

I am happy to say that there has been a continuing positive response by the business world to appeals for increased sponsorship of the arts.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is obvious that the arts will have to depend increasingly on private sponsorship since the Government will not give adequate funds to enable the arts to prosper by that means? In view of the enormous windfall profits of the oil companies and the banks, will he undertake to approach them to disburse some of their ill-gotten gains for the sake of the arts?

On the first point, the hon. Gentleman is not right. The Government have made clear that they intend to continue public support for the arts. I agree with him that for any increase we must look to the private sector. We have had considerable success there. The Association of Business Sponsorship for the Arts estimates that private support is running at up to £5 million a year. I accept the hon. Gentleman's interesting suggestion that the banks and the oil companies should be approached, not for their ill-gotten gains, but for their perfectly legitimate gains. I shall be happy to go along, with the support of the hon. Gentleman, and suggest that they might make an even bigger contribution to the arts.

Does my right hon. Friend think that sponsorship from private companies will be able to overcome the problems caused to theatres by the 15 per cent. rate of VAT?

That is a different issue. I hope that the increase in private sponsorship will help not only the theatres, but the entire art world in a time of economic difficulty.

Returning to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, why should the BBC be, to such an extent, the sole patron of music? Is there not a case for some help from the Government in that respect?

How the BBC disposes of its funds and programmes is a matter entirely for the Corporation.