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Arts Expenditure

Volume 981: debated on Monday 17 March 1980

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25.

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what representations the Government have received about the effect of public expenditure cuts on the arts.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave him on 5 November 1979.

Will the Minister confirm that the Arts Council grant for next year will be £68 million, which is less in real terms than the grant for the current year? Is he aware that the cuts in the BBC budget have caused a proposal to scrap the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra? Will the hon. Gentleman urgently investigate that matter with a view to saving the orchestra, because its destruction would be seen as yet another act of cultural vandalism by the Government?

The hon. Gentleman's indignation is a little excessive and he is displaying some of his traditional gloom and despondency, which he does not owe to his constituents. The hon. Gentleman knows that the latter issue is a question for the BBC. On the other matters that the hon. Gentleman raised, he has waited since 5 November for his question. I suggest that he waits a little longer to hear my right hon. Friend.

In the difficult task that my hon. Friend faces in allocating such expenditure as remains to him, will he feel able to look more critically at the Marxist cottage industries that claim tranches of his budget and more benevolently at various artistic activities, such as those of South-West Arts in my constituency, which are creative rather than destructive?

My hon. Friend referred to my budget, but I must point out that it is a budget granted to the Arts Council and its allocation is a matter for the Council. Many hon. Members have written expressing deep concern about a number of recent matters that have appeared in the press and they are being looked at.