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Business Support

Volume 87: debated on Monday 18 November 1985

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29.

asked the Minister for the Arts what plans he has to simplify and improve the incentives to businesses to support the arts.

The Government have already made a number of tax improvements designed to make it more attractive to give to the arts, thus honouring the commitments in our manifesto. In addition, the business sponsorship incentive scheme has generated an extra £5·5 million in its first year.

Will my hon. Friend seek to impress on his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the fact that the complication and uncertainty of the present tax rules discourage many potential sponsors, and that it would be better if we simply allowed businesses that wished to support the arts to set off donations up to a certain percentage of pre-tax profits, as other countries do?

I note what my hon. Friend says, and I shall convey his views to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My hon. Friend will acknowledge that during our time in office we have undertaken many moves to encourage businesses to sponsor the arts, ranging from a reduction in the covenanting period to relief from capital transfer tax on all gifts to charities. That is an encouragement to sponsorship. I am anxious to find any way that will enhance further the amount of support from the public and from businesses for the arts.

While the Minister has the gratitude of the House, and particularly the people of East Anglia, for his continued support of the business sponsorship scheme, may I ask whether he accepts that opera houses cannot function on an annual basis, and, in order to plan ahead, desperately need endowments?

I note what the hon. Gentleman says, and I am grateful for his support of the business sponsorship scheme. I am glad that his wife has benefited from it, and rightly so. The scheme provides support for many regions; not only East Anglia, but all parts. I understand the hon. Gentleman's point about opera houses. In addition to any basic grants from the Government, opera houses should be encouraged to find ways of securing extra outside private support.