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Education And Science

Volume 14: debated on Monday 30 November 1981

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Seilern Collection

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions he has had concerning the project for the sale of works of art which form part of the collection of the late Count Seilern, which he bequeathed to London university.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will take steps to ensure that the collection of the late Count Seilern is kept together.

I have been in touch with the parties concerned, and I am glad to say that an agreement has now been reached whereby, through contributions from the national heritage memorial fund and the Victoria and Albert museum, a major picture from the collection by Rubens will be purchased for the Courtauld Institute of the University of London. This will enable the executors to meet the residual liabilities of the estate, and the Courtauld to keep the collection intact.

May I extend my heartiest congratulations on the happiest possible outcome of such benevolent co-operation? Will the right hon. Gentleman now extend the same spirit and the same exercise to the preservation of the British film archives—the nitrate stock, which is literally dying day by day? Historic films are disappearing which we shall never be able to resurrect. Could not the right hon. Gentleman apply the same sort of exercise to this really critical problem?

I am exceedingly grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his congratulations. I know that he has played a part in all this, and I am grateful for what he has done.

The hon. Gentleman asks about the film archives. I suggest, with respect, that although this is an extremely important question, it is another one.

I should like to join in extending congratulations to my right hon. Friend. Will he now fortify success by ensuring that a future home for the collection is found in the State rooms of Somerset House, which are particularly suited both to the Rubens and the Tiepolos, which are the particular glory of the good count's collection? Will my right hon. Friend, in the meantime, as a one-off exercise, arrange for a special showing in the House of the most appropriate of all the Tiepolos, "The Allegory of the Power of Eloquence"?

I should have to consult those responsible before giving a firm undertaking. I shall write to my hon. Friend. I hope very much that a home can be found which will enable both the Courtauld collection and the Prince's Gate collection to be displayed in full. Somerset House is an excellent idea, although it is not my responsibility. I shall speak to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

I should like to add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend. Does not this underline the necessity for the Government's early acceptance of the Select Committee report on works of art, published as long ago as March?

I note that all parties in the House are anxious to see acceptance of the report. The Government are considering the matter with great care, and I hope that an announcement will not be delayed too long.

The Arts (Business Sponsorship)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he proposes to take further steps to encourage and increase the business sponsorship of the arts outside London.

Yes. I launched a new phase in the Government's campaign to encourage business sponsorship of the arts in York last week, when I spoke to an invited audience from local businesses and arts organisations. I plan to hold similar meetings in other parts of the country.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his activities in this sphere are welcome? Does he feel that business in general understands the advantages that accrue to it from such sponsorship of the arts?

I think that big business certainly understands. I am not sure that medium-sized and small businesses yet understand. One of the purposes of my campaign is to try to spread the message to slightly smaller businesses. I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support. I shall continue to pursue my activities throughout the country to the best of my ability.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that an outstanding example of this support is the Cambridge symphony orchestra? Cannot this example be well adapted elsewhere?

Yes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me to address the Cambridge symphony orchestra dinner recently. I hope that the orchestra continues from strength to strength.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that, whatever the generosity of business firms, this can never replace the support that will always be needed from the State? This has not happened in any other country in the world. Is he aware that in the provinces as well as in London a large number of theatres are dark or crumbling away, including one in my constituency, which we are trying hard to save?

Will he make sure that besides encouraging firms and industry to support the arts, he will do his best to see that he gets a greater share of resources from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to support the arts?

The hon. Lady has a later question on the Order Paper that I am looking forward to answering. I agree with her that business support is a supplement and not a substitute. It is, however, an extremely valuable supplement, and one that is growing considerably.

When the right hon. Gentleman addresses business men—I hope that he will address them soon in Greater Manchester—will he emphasise the real spin-off that exists for business, since areas that become areas of cultural excellence attract staff of equal excellence?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. There have been tremendous advances in Manchester in business sponsorship of the arts. This sponsorship has been a tremendous success in the past year.

Would there not be some considerable value, not only in continued appeals for business sponsorship by the right hon. Gentleman, but in a special appeal, in a particularly cold climate, to local authorities to defend and, indeed, to extend their cultural activities to offset some of the social and economic damage caused by the Government?

The hon. Gentleman, most uncharacteristically, slightly exaggerates his case. The Government have done nothing to damage the arts and have supported them in difficult economic circumstances as generously as any reasonable man could expect. I hope that local authorities will continue to support the arts. I hope that they will not discriminate against the arts. That is the message that I try to give them.

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what advice he provides to arts organisations which are looking for business sponsorships.

I have just published a new booklet of guidance to smaller arts organisations about sponsorship proposals, and also a new edition of an earlier booklet issued by my predecessor. Both give advice that I hope will be widely read and acted upon. I shall send my hon. Friend a copy.

Will my right hon. Friend accept warm congratulations for this positive step to enhance sponsorship of the arts? May I direct his attention to Mr. Horn, who is the chairman of the patrons and associates of Manchester city art galleries, and who does an excellent job? Does my right hon. Friend agree that this sort of impact on the arts is the pattern to be followed?

Yes. Manchester city art gallery was one of the first in the field, and I endorse what my hon. Friend says. I have noticed a demand by smaller arts organisations for advice on making an approach to business. I hope that the booklet will be helpful. I shall bring it to their attention wherever possible.

Library And Information Services Council

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he has now received the latest report of the Library and Information Services Council and what steps he proposes to take.

The council has recently sent me its latest report. I am most grateful to it and I am arranging for the report to be published.

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that he does not regard this council as a head waiting to be hunted by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Holland), and that, on the contrary, it does a very good job? Is my right hon. Friend convinced that he is making the maximum use of modem British information technology?

The council, which has been recently reorganised, does an extremely good job. It has published an interesting report which I am sure the House will want to consider in due course. The report recommends the study of electronic publishing, a review of manpower and training, and extra information services for small firms, which could be of immense value. I shall pursue this matter as best I can.

Craftsmanship

22.

A great deal of progress has been made, particularly through the work of the Crafts Council, which in January will open a new exhibition gallery and information centre in London.

I am grateful for that information, which I welcome. As our craftsmen enjoy a high reputation, abroad as well as at home, does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the best ways in which the Government can help to increase the number of craftsmen and encourage more people to take up crafts is to provide assistance with outlets where they can sell their work? Does he not consider that this is an important factor where the Government could provide help?

Yes. It is extremely important. I agree that there is an immense spin-off for British industry from the high standard of work of British craftsmen. This can have a great effect on the products of British industry. It is important that there should be more outlets where craftsmen can sell their works. The new gallery in the West End of London is a tremendously important site and will have a considerable effect. I shall want to watch the situation closely.

I recognise that one of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors made an enormous advance in support of crafts. Will he continue that excellent support by providing help where craft centres, in the present economic climate, are in some danger of collapse? In view of the enormous public response to native craftsmanship over the last few years, will he look upon this as a particular problem that requires more financial assistance from the Government?

The hon. Gentleman raises a number of points. It is important to keep up support for the Crafts Council. I shall do my best to see that that happens. However, some of the points that the hon. Gentleman makes are more the responsibility of my right hon. Friends. I shall look at what he says and see what can be done.

Public Lending Right

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he has completed his consultations on the proposed public lending right scheme.

Can my right hon. Friend inform the House when he feels that the scheme will be fully operational?

That is not yet absolutely clear. I should like the House to examine the scheme when I put it before hon. Members, I hope just before Christmas, or, if I am unlucky, very early in the new year. I hope that it will be generally welcome. Most of the points raised by interested parties have been met and I hope that hon. Members will support the scheme.

I do not wish to appear too antipathetic this afternoon, but does the right hon. Gentleman accept, that there have been years of delay during which we have been talking about implementation of the scheme? There is always another excuse for not introducing it. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House—or the more cultured sections of it—is impatient to see the scheme? When can we see it? We want no more promises that are not kept.

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, his party was in power for a considerable time during this period.

We started the Bill. I am about to produce the scheme. We shall get it going. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consult the Leader of the Opposition. I am doing him a good turn. We shall have it before the House at the earliest opportunity. I look forward to receiving his congratulations.

Arts Council (Grant)

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will increase the grant to the Arts Council.

My luck is in today, having two goes at the Minister.

Does the Minister accept that unless the resources of the Arts Council are increased considerably—I hope that the Prime Minister is also noting this—in order to care for the problem of inflation as well as the expansion of growth of the arts, many artists, orchestras, theatres and companies will not be supported by the Arts Council in the coming year, which will create a very serious situation?

I note what the hon. Lady says. I must ask her to await an announcement in due course. What she has said has a great deal of force. We shall have to do the best that we can.