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The Arts

Volume 81: debated on Monday 17 June 1985

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Regional Arts Associations

18.

asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts when the Minister for the Arts next expects to meet representatives from the regional arts association.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment
(Mr. William Waldegrave)

My noble Friend met a number of directors of regional arts associations on 7 June.

When the Minister for the Arts next meets the chairmen of the regional arts associations, will he discuss the Arts Council report of 29 May? That report clearly reveals that an extra £37 million is required from the Government to make good the loss in arts expenditure if the GLC and the metropolitan county councils are abolished. Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that the Arts Council has said that about 550 arts organisations are at risk? When the Arts Council responds, will the Government give a favourable and considered reply to this urgent case?

My noble Friend will certainly take account of these submissions in his consideration of the Arts Council's needs. We must be wary of scare stories. Last year there was a perfectly clear ploy by some of the authorities which will be abolished to increase expenditure. They tried to land the Government in some embarrassment. We have guaranteed that we shall fill the gap on the 1983–84 basis. We shall, of course, examine what else needs to be done. The boroughs in the new districts that will succeed the abolished authority areas must play their part.

When my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and the Minister for the Arts next meet representatives of the regional associations, will they make it clear that many terminological inexactitudes from County Hall, such as that services in the arts will suffer when the GLC has been abolished, have been exposed for what they are—for example, the scare story by the GLC that concerts at Kenwood would cease?

A completely new organisation would be needed to counter the moving target of the stories put out by the GLC. My hon. Friend refers to one, but he could add many others to the list.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Minister for the Arts made a statement that, given good will and a positive spirit, the arts will be in no danger of diminishing in London? Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House about this positive spirit in the light of the possible £21 million decrease in arts funding?

The first and most positive response was the Government's quick move at the beginning of the abolition debate to put money on the table.

A large sum—£16 million—for the arts. This was made on the basis of 1983–84 expenditure. My noble Friend has made it clear that he will consider whether additional expenditure is needed.

When my hon. Friend next meets representatives of the regional arts associations, will he note that, although funding for Lincolnshire and Humberside has risen to £618,000 this year from £523,000 last year—a welcome increase—and expenditure is 44p per head in that region compared with 24p per head in Greater London, those figures do not take adequate account of the grave problems faced in funding the arts in rural areas? It can take at least two hours to travel from north Humberside to south Lincolnshire. Some citizens of small Lincolnshire towns never see Arts Council activities. Will my hon. Friend try to continue his policy of transferring grants from the great cultural wen of London to rural areas?

I do not necessarily agree with the description of London given at the end of my hon. Friend's question. It is central to the Arts Council's strategy, which has my noble Friend's support, to give greater support to the regions and provinces.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this has been a quite disgraceful response? The figures have been worked out, not on the basis of extravagant local spending, as alleged by the Minister, who made certain accusations, but by the arts associations and the Arts Council. There is a shortfall not of £21 million but of £30 million, because £9 million has already had to be wiped off. The arts associations recognise that fact. That sum is equivalent to three times the amount given per year to all the regional arts associations in London. That is a horrendous figure.

Secondly, instead of attacking the local authorities, will the Minister reiterate to the House the pledge given by his noble Friend the Minister for the Arts, who will be dealing with the matter today, that there will be full replacement of the money lost? The Minister's figure of £16 million is now £30 million. That is horrendous and cannot be replaced by Paul Getty. Will the Minister now give a pledge to this House, or ensure that his noble Friend will give a pledge this afternoon when the matter is debated in the other place?

The hon. Gentleman is a little off-beam. The pledge was on the 1983–84 basis, and that has been met. My noble Friend will be considering what is needed in addition, if more is needed. I am by no means attacking local authorities. By saying that everything should be done by central Government, the hon. Gentleman is providing an excuse for those boroughs which do not want to undertake their responsibilities.

Fund Allocations

19.

asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts what proportion of the budgets of Opera North, the English National Opera, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, are to be met from centrally allocated funds in 1985–86.

The percentages are: Opera North, 56·7, English National Opera, 54·5 and Royal Opera House, 49·0.

Is the Minister aware that the figures will not be regarded as satisfactory in the north? Does he realise that he expects far too high a proportion of the funds to come from private sources in the less affluent north, with the result that people in the north will have to accept lower standards of production? Is the Minister aware that Opera North's recent performance of "The Mastersingers" received favourable comment except for the production itself, which many commentators regarded as below par? It is entirely a matter of funding and the figures are unsatisfactory.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the continuance of the company as a separate company. I note that the figures show that a lower proportion of funding is expected to come from private sources in the north than is the case in London. On the other hand, a very large increase—25·8 per cent., the largest of all—has been made in the funding of the Yorkshire arts in this year. That is helping many new bodies—for example, Phoenix Dance.

Is my hon. Friend aware that British opera, ballet, orchestral concerts and many other arts, have a high standard of excellence, attract huge numbers of foreign visitors to our shores, and generate employment not only in the arts but in hotels, catering and so on, out of all proportion to the funding with which they are provided? Is that sufficiently taken into account by the Government in assessing the degree of funding that would be beneficial?

My hon. Friend is right, and it is one of the considerations that my noble Friend takes into account.

Business Sponsorship

20.

asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts if he will list the most recent examples of major business sponsors of the arts under Her Majesty's Government's pound for pound scheme; and if he will make a statement.

Under the pound for pound scheme which started on 1 April, BSIS awards of £10,000 or more have been made in response to the following major new sponsorships: £25,000 to the London City Ballet, sponsored by Neste Oy,, Finland; £25,000 to the National Association of Youth Theatres, sponsored by Anchor Foods Ltd.; £14,500 to the Arundel Festival, jointly sponsored by Harlequin Holidays, Courpark Ltd. and Blake's Hotel; and £13,000 to the Lincoln Festival, sponsored by Marconi Electronic Devices Ltd.

In the light of those contributions, and in the light also of Mr. Paul Getty junior's contribution of £50 million to the arts, will my hon. Friend confirm that the state should not be seen as the only benefactor of the arts in Britain, or seen as the benefactor of last resort?

Business sponsorship demonstrates the importance of that element in plural funding.

I know that the House will want to pay tribute to Mr. Getty—a new Maecenas come among us—for his extraordinary generous gift. It shows that there are many sources in addition to those of the state. The Getty gift was made with modesty and humour, which I think the British people like when spectacular things are done. It was also done with considerable style, and I am sure that I speak for the whole of the House in welcoming it.

With regard to the very generous gift of £50 million by Paul Getty to the National Gallery, is it now the intention of the Government to match that gift pound for pound? If that is so, where is the money to be placed?

I am afraid that Mr. Getty's gift is so great that it is not eligible under the business sponsorship incentive matching scheme.

Attenborough Report

21.

asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts what steps the Minister for the Arts proposes taking to implement the recommendations within his responsibility of the Attenborough report on the arts and disabled people; and if he will make a statement.

The recommendations were addressed to a wide range of bodies; but my right hon. and noble Friend will be giving careful consideration to those which touch on his responsibilities.

Will the Minister pay attention to paragraph 4.17 of the report, which is one of his responsibilities, which recommends that funds should be made available so that arts venues are more accessible to disabled people? Will he consider the point made in the report that there might be an incentive scheme similar to the BSIS to make such funds available?

I shall draw the latter suggestion to my right hon. and noble Friend's attention. The previous point made by the hon. Gentleman has already been a matter for discussion with the arts funding bodies. I am aware that the hon. Gentleman has reason to be proud of the high standard of that excellent report.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, arising out of Question Time. There is a familiar phrase used in the House which has a bearing on what I shall ask. It relates to the organ grinder and the monkey. It is becoming extremely difficult for us, especially when figures are involved, when we receive a surrogate response. The difficulty is caused because the Minister for the Arts, not yet replaced by an American millionaire, is in another place. If, for example, the Minister for the Arts had been present in the House today he would have been forced to acknowledge his pledge of replacement for the funds and we could have questioned him on that point. Could the inconvenience that that causes on both sides of the House, and not least to Conservative Back Benchers, be made known through you, Mr. Speaker?

I have many responsibilities in this place, but the appointment of Ministers is not one of them.