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Enterprise Allowance Scheme

Volume 130: debated on Monday 28 March 1988

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49.

To ask the Minister for the Arts to what extent the enterprise allowance scheme has affected those involved in the arts.

At 30 September 1987 some 7,500 people in the arts—authors, artists, film and television producers—were in receipt of enterprise allowances. There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that a substantial number of arts people who receive allowances go on to become self-supporting.

Those figures seem most encouraging, but can my right hon. Friend tell the House what proportion of all people they represent, and what proportion of those who have benefited have become self-sufficient?

I think that it is good news that an estimated 7 per cent. of all those who received the allowances are from the artistic world and wish to set up their own businesses, of one kind or another, in that world. Although no figures are available relating specifically to the arts, it is clear that some 77 per cent. of all those who receive the allowances are still self-supporting, on a self-employed basis, six months after the allowances have ceased.

I am sure that the arts have an enormous part to play in this regard. Does my right hon. Friend agree, however, that setting up a new business in the arts is a matter not only of commercial viability but of artistic quality? Where do people go for advice on that when they are setting up their business? Is such advice provided by his Office, or by the Small Firms Service?

As my hon. Friend has said, business viability must be taken into account by the assessors at the Department of Employment. But, on a question of artistic merit, it is perfectly possible to go to bodies such as the British Film Institute or the regional arts associations to seek further advice.

Does my right hon. Friend understand that, whereas the enterprise allowance scheme may not be the most effective way of helping the Horniman museum in south London, everything must be done to ensure that that museum has a continued existence as a nationally supported museum?

Yes. I acknowledge my right hon. Friend's point about the importance of the Horniman museum. It has been in existence for a very long time and provides an important service. This is a matter principally for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, but I am in contact with him about it.