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The Arts

Volume 84: debated on Monday 21 October 1985

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Regional Arts Associations


asked the Minister for the Arts what recent representations he has had on the allocation of resources to regional arts associations.

Unfortunately, my hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts was taken ill today and I am standing in for him at short notice. He sends his apologies to the House.

My hon. Friend met the chairmen and directors of all the regional arts associations on 18 October. He has also received a deputation from Merseyside arts bodies, and has corresponded with representatives of other regions. The allocation of resources is a matter for the Arts Council.

I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will convey to his hon. Friend our regret that he is unwell. We particularly wish to assist him in his new task. Is the Minister aware that in West Yorkshire, as in other metropolitan areas, there is worry about what will happen when the metropolitan county councils are abolished? When will the Minister respond to the Arts Council's bid for £35 million to replace the metropolitan county money, and what further guidance is to be given via the rate support grant formula to assist district councils in developing their arts funding?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his kind words about my hon. Friend. I spoke to my hon. Friend a few minutes ago and I found him very much like Florestan at the beginning of the second act of Fidelio. I am sure that he will recover. On the second point, my hon. Friend hopes to make an announcement about the allocations for next year, in December. On the matter of post-abolition funding, as the hon. Member knows, we have already committed £34 million of additional central funding for the arts after abolition. The Arts Council subsequently made a bid for more resources, which we will have to consider in the context of the public expenditure discussions. As I think the hon. Member will know, that will have to await the broader considerations that are being discussed at the moment.

Since my hon. Friend is in such close and frequent contact with the newly appointed Minister for the Arts, may I ask him to transmit the message that many of us hope that he will be rather more a champion at the Chancellor's door than a supplicant and defendant in the star chamber?

Of course I shall pass on those sentiments. No one wishes my hon. Friend a speedy recovery more than I do.

We are all pleased to learn that at least the Minister for the Arts is in a better condition than I fear most of the arts are. We pass on our good wishes, and no doubt we shall meet him in a few weeks' time. Will the Under-Secretary of State remind him that the arts crisis, the cataclysmic collapse in arts funding. is the worst ever? Will he also remind him that this is due to the abolition of the metropolitan counties and the GLC? Thirdly, will he remind his hon. Friend of the promise given to me on 2 August last year by the previous Minister that the present level of public support for the arts would be maintained? When are we to get that assurance from the present Minister?

I reject the assumption behind the hon. Gentleman's question. In our manifesto in 1983 we said that we would keep up the level of support for the arts, and our record shows that we have done better than that. From 1978–79 to date the central Government arts budget has more than doubled in cash terms, that is, a real terms increase of nearly 18 per cent. This year's budget is almost 6 per cent. up in cash terms on last year's budget. In the context of the very difficult decisions that the Government have had to take on public expenditure, the arts have done quite well.

Private Sponsorship


asked the Minister for the Arts what response he has received to the publications issued by the Office of Arts and Libraries to stimulate private sponsorship of the arts.

I am delighted to say that the business sponsorship incentive scheme continues to be highly successful. It has brought £5·5 million of new money into the arts since it began a year ago, £4 million from businesses, to which £1·5 million has been added under the scheme. The House will be glad to know that, in view of the success of the scheme, my hon. Friend is transferring an extra £250,000 to it to meet the demand. He is today announcing 57 more awards in respect of over £800,000 new sponsorship; the new list includes 54 brand new sponsors from all parts of the country.

Will my hon. Friend convey to the new Minister the good wishes of Conservative Members and our regret that he is indisposed? Will my hon. Friend also convey our congratulations on the stimulation of the arts, which has been an admirable feature of the Government's record since they came to power and is further evidenced by this afternoon's announcement? Will my hon. Friend guarantee that such matters will be given the correct amount of publicity, because that will help to stimulate the arts further?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words. The scheme has done more than anything previously to raise public awareness of business sponsorship schemes. The arts organisations are enthusiastically selling the scheme to sponsors, but I shall raise with my hon. Friend the Minister the subject of publicity, to see whether more might be done.

I should like to be associated with the good wishes being sent to the new Minister, and I recommend that in future he should not eat in restaurants recommended by Lord Gowrie.

How much business sponsorship does the Under-Secretary think will be necessary to keep open the South Bank, particularly the Royal Festival Hall. if the money that the Arts Council is asking for is not forthcoming from the Government?

I am confident that under the new regime that we have announced the South Bank will be run responsibly and efficiently and that some of the scares raised by the GLC will be shown to be unrealistic.

National Heritage Fund


asked the Minister for the Arts if he will estimate the number of hours spent by officials of the Office of Arts and Libraries on matters relating to the National Heritage Fund in the last 12 months.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund is an autonomous body administered by its own staff. Government responsibility for it is shared between the Department of the Environment and Office of Arts and Libraries. The responsibilities of the Office of Arts and Libraries in relation to the fund take up a small amount of the time of my hon. Friend's staff, which cannot readily be quantified.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Bearing in mind that he has various hats, can he confirm that funds are and will be available for appropriate railway structures, including the Ribble head viaduct and, under another hat, will be ensure that the future of the Settle-Carlisle line is kept in mind by the bodies with which he has contact?

There is nothing to prevent the NHMF from funding railway-related projects, and I was pleased to see that in 1983–84 a grant from the fund saved the Haymarket train shed in Edinburgh, which is now in Bo'ness.

As my hon. Friend knows, British Rail proposed the closure of the Settle-Carlisle line and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has a quasi-statutory role, which makes it difficult for Ministers to say anything at the moment. However, I assure my hon. Friend that the heritage and tourist aspects of the line will be taken into account when my hon. Friend makes his decision.

Private Sponsorship


asked the Minister for the Arts if he will report on take-up of the pound-for-pound matching scheme for arts sponsorship; and if he will make a statement.

Since 1 April 1985, £1·5 million has come in new sponsorship. Of this, £700,000 has come from 112 first-time sponsors taking part in the pound-for-pound matching scheme.

Does the Minister agree that the statistics that he has just given, together with those that he gave earlier to the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Murphy), show what a tremendous value-for-money exercise it is to match private sponsors with public money? Does he accept that it is counter-productive not to invest more money in the scheme, because the amount of work that it takes to hook a potential sponsor and the damage done by losing him if there is insufficient money will do little to futher the scheme?

I agree with that, which is why I have just announced a further £250,000 for the scheme. One of the beneficiaries of the scheme has been Jill Freud and company, which won an award of £4,000 for a production of "Under Milk Wood", touring south and east England and Wales at the moment.

On the current list of winners is the Ettrick Shepherds Festival, sponsored by Mrs. David Steel, so it would appear that the Liberal party has done quite well from this Government initiative.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the considerable achievements of regional opera in this country, not least the resounding success of Kent Opera in no less a place than my constituency's Canterbury Festival this year, and will he continue to see that regional opera is given generous support?

The regional allocations of funds is primarily a matter for the Arts Council, but I shall make sure that the council is aware of the enthusiastic support that my hon. Friend has mentioned for the arts in Kent, and particularly in Canterbury.