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Arts Council

Volume 124: debated on Monday 14 December 1987

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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.