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The Arts

Volume 124: debated on Monday 14 December 1987

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Scottish Arts Council

63.

To ask the Minister for the Arts when he plans to meet the chairman of the Scottish Arts Council to discuss the level of funding for the arts in Scotland in 1988–89.

I met him informally recently. I have announced the Arts Council's grant in aid for 1988–89, and the council will now determine the share for Scotland.

Why is the Minister failing to invest in the arts in Glasgow in preparation for the City of Culture year, which will bring cultural prestige and tourist income not only to the city of Glasgow but to Scotland and to Great Britain as a whole?

I was pleased to have been able to choose Glasgow as the European City of Culture for 1990. One of the conditions for all the British cities that put in bids was that they should themselves be able to provide the resources for the City of Culture. I am glad that the city of Glasgow gave that undertaking as part of its bid. That was one of the many reasons why I chose Glasgow to undertake this task.

When the Minister next meets the chairman of the Scottish Arts Council, will he impress upon him the importance of providing the maximum assistance to Crawford arts centre in St. Andrews, which is under threat because the university is unable to continue its previous level of support?

The hon. and learned Gentleman has written to me on this matter and I know about the importance of the work in the Crawford arts centre. I shall draw this to the attention of the chairman of the Scottish Arts Council because, as the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, it is for that council to determine whether it can give any help.

Lincolnshire And Humberside

64.

To ask the Minister for the Arts when he plans to meet the chairman of Lincolnshire and Humberside Arts to discuss the level of arts funding in Lincolnshire and Humberside in 1988–89.

I met the chairman of Lincolnshire and Humberside Arts on 3 December during my visit to the region.

Is the Minister aware that a delay in letting Lincolnshire and Humberside arts association know what its budget is to be for the forthcoming year can cause tremendous problems in its planning strategy? Is he further aware that the whole calculation of the grant to the Lincolnshire and Humberside arts association means that it is discriminated against because the Arts Council formula is based on population? This area is one of small scattered communities, and small organisations such as the Humberside dance project are put at a disadvantage because of this sort of calculation and because of a delay in giving the figures.

When I visited the area two weeks ago I was impressed by the work of the regional arts association. It does an excellent job and has already drawn up a regional development plan for the arts, drawing together the strands of the local authorities and the arts bodies and those of the regional arts association itself. Against the background of three-year funding which is now to be introduced, the regional arts association for that area will feel that it can help the arts bodies to plan ahead, to diversify their sources of funding and to become more self-reliant. I am confident that against the background of a 53 per cent. increase in real terms of resources available to the association in the last eight years its case will be carefully considered by the Arts Council.

Cultural Co-Operation

65.

To ask the Minister for the Arts what steps he is taking to further European cultural co-operation.

I attended an informal meeting in Copenhagen last week of European Community Ministers responsible for cultural affairs. This provided a useful exchange of views on a variety of matters which are to be considered subsequently in more detail at official level. In September I attended the fifth conference of Council of Europe Ministers responsible for cultural affairs in Portugal, at which public and private funding of the arts was the major topic.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the United Kingdom's bilateral co-operation with our EEC partners, including Greece, is in good repair? In view of the great budgetary pressures on the EEC, will he discourage grandiose and expensive schemes from Europe which would pre-empt large national contributions?

I can confirm that bilateral relations in respect of cultural affairs with all our European partners seem to be in good order. So far as the wider front of Community action is concerned, I agree with my hon. Friend's comments that we do not gain, either in this country or elsewhere, from vast grandiose schemes in the European Community. However, there are certain matters, for example, sponsorship and heritage conservation, where we can all gain from co-operation. I am glad that, as a result of the meeting last week, we agreed that we should take the pragmatic and practical approach to these matters.

In encouraging European cultural co-operation, will the Minister give an assurance that he will not overlook the needs of minority cultures, particularly Gaelic in Scotland and Welsh in Wales?

These matters have come up from time to time and they featured last week. It is worth making the point that a resolution was passed during the British presidency a year ago supporting the idea that money should he made available for translations of works, particularly from minority communities. I hope that that will be a contribution.

Has my right hon. Friend thought of getting all the European Ministers for Arts and Culture together to persuade the Finance Ministers that we in Britain have by far the best system of VAT when it comes to literature and reading matter?

Given that, in our imperialist past, we looted many of the art treasures of Europe and brought them here—I am thinking primarily of the Parthenon marbles — does the Minister think that it is now appropriate to initiate a general discussion between Culture Ministers in Europe to try to eliminate the legacy of bitterness brought about by that theft? Does he further agree that arrangements could perhaps be made for a civilised exchange of various national art treasures looted from one European country by another?

All I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that the oceans of the world would be extremely busy in all directions if we were to fulfil what he is advocating. It is not just a matter of objects of art in this country which, for one reason or another, originated from other countries. The same applies to many other parts of the world. If we start down that road, where shall we end?

Arts Council

66.

To ask the Minister for the Arts when he plans to meet the chairman of the Arts Council to discuss the base budgets of the Arts Council's major clients for 1988–89.

It is for the Arts Council to determine the allocation of its grant-in-aid between individual arts bodies. The chairman will keep me informed of the council's decisions.

Will the Minister confirm that, when the £5 million in this year's settlement which is earmarked for touring and incentive funding has been deducted, the Arts Council, when deciding how to distribute the money, will have a very small sum? Does he further agree that the impact of this for major clients, such as the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, will mean that they will probably get no more than a 2 per cent. increase this year, which will be a cut in real terms? Is that the measure of success of the so-called triumph of the Minister's budget settlement?

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman seems to be changing his tune a little from last time, when he appeared to welcome the settlement. I would have thought that an increase of 10 per cent. in the next financial year was a substantial increase. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the figures for the Arts Council, he will see that they will go up from nearly £139 million to £150 million—an increase of £11 million—in the coming financial year, of which £5 million will be taken for incentive funding and touring. If the hon. Gentleman cannot see that as a good settlement, I am not quite sure what he would see as a good one.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the main source of financial strength for the Arts Council's major clients is not only the splendid settlement that he obtained for grants to the Arts Council for the coming year, with its warmly welcomed increase of 10 per cent., but the growth in the British economy over the past eight years? It has meant that more people who want to see performances can pay for tickets.

I agree with my hon. Friend. Looking to the next three years, it is an extremely important point. The challenge that I am putting down to arts organisations all around the country is that, with three-year funding, they can look to their third year, not just the next year, and plan their long-term finances. The more professional they are, the more positive they are with regard to marketing policies, and the more successful they are in encouraging the public to go and enjoy their actitivies, the more income they will raise from other sources and the more encouragement they will get from incentive funding. This is the direction in which we are going so that we may encourage greater self-reliance for the arts world.