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Northern Arts

Volume 87: debated on Monday 18 November 1985

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asked the Minister for the Arts what recent representations he has received from Northern Arts about the impact of the abolition of Tyne and Wear county council on arts spending in the region; and what response he has given.

I have received a number of representations, and I visited Tyne and Wear on 11 November. As I announced in the House on 14 November, the Government will make £25 million available to the Arts Council next year, towards the replacement of arts funding in the abolition areas. It will now be for the Arts Council to decide its regional allocations and for successor authorities to play their part.

During his visit to the region last week, did the Minister notice the unique arrangement which means that a large proportion of arts expenditure is funded by Tyne and Wear county council rather than by the districts? Does he think that the excessively London-minded Arts Council has grasped the significance of that in regard to the use of the money that he announced on Thursday? Is he aware that that and the small increase in the base rate of grant will result in rural areas such as Northumberland being left behind when it comes to arts grants while the region tries to sort out the problems created by the abolition of Tyne and Wear?

I had useful discussions in Newcastle last week with Tyne and Wear county council and the successor authorities. I am aware of the distribution of money between various authorities and I am satisfied that the Arts Council will take the factors that the hon. Gentleman mentioned fully into account when disbursing the additional money. As for rural areas, I have announced an increase in the amount of money available for regional development. It will make an important contribution.

Can my hon. Friend extend that assurance to metropolitan county areas generally? I have the west midlands in mind.

Yes, I can. It is up to the Arts Council to decide how to disburse the money. I am sure that it will take each region's needs into account.

Can the Minister confirm from his visit to the north-east last week that the whole region utterly opposes the Government's asinine policy of abolishing the county of Tyne and Wear and the resulting chaos?

The purpose of my visit was to have constructive discussions—which I had—with Tyne and Wear county council and the successor authorities about how they can play their part in financing the arts, in addition to the Government's role. I thought that the successor authorities demonstrated a positive approach.