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Tobacco Sponsorship

Volume 79: debated on Monday 20 May 1985

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asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts what representations the Minister for the Arts has received from tobacco product manufacturers about tobacco sponsorship of the arts; and if he will make a statement.

Can my hon. Friend confirm that he welcomes sponsorship for the arts from tobacco product manufacturers ?

The Government's decision is that the arts are entirely free to seek sponsorship from wherever they can find it. It is very welcome if public or other companies wish to support the arts, and much valuable activity is supported in that way.

Is not this begging-bowl approach to sponsoring the arts based on this Government's almost malicious contempt for culture ? Is that not to be rejected by the British people ? Why do the Government not rescind some of the tax reductions that they have given in capital transfer and capital gains tax during the past few years and channel that money into supporting the arts, thereby dealing with the contempt and disrespect for the Government felt by many people who perform and support the arts ?

I thought that the hon. Gentleman, who is a fair man, was having some difficulty in keeping a straight face as he asked that supplementary question. Labour Members often criticise the Government for not cutting taxes enough, though when it suits them they criticise us in the opposite direction. There is no contempt for culture on the part of the Government, and real term support for the arts has increased since 1979.

I suggest that there is a great deal of contempt for culture when the Minister can say that it does not matter which bodies provide money for the arts so long as money comes forward. Is it not a fact that, were it not for the cuts that the Government are imposing on the arts, and the absence of proper public funding, we should not require this additional fl million or so from cigarette and tobacco advertising ? Is it not also a fact that total public expenditure on the arts, compared with the amount coming to the arts from tobacco advertising, is as 100,000 to one ? An increase of only one hundred thousandth in public expenditure would enable us to do without such meretricious advertising.

The hon. Gentleman is taking a different position from that which he normally takes on this issue, because we are normally agreed that the search for additional sources of funds for the arts — from businesses and anywhere—represents a useful addition to the pluralistic source of funds. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that his party would make it illegal for tobacco companies or companies with interests in tobacco—which covers a wide range of companies—to support the arts, or to support other things, he should say so.