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North West Arts

Volume 164: debated on Monday 18 December 1989

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To ask the Minister for the Arts what funding North West Arts received in 1989–90.

The overall forecast income for the north-west arts council in 1989–90 is just over £3 million.

That was an excellent answer. My right hon. Friend will be aware at this Christmas time of the joy that can be brought to people through brass band music. I ask my right hon. Friend, on behalf of the Freckleton prize brass band in my constituency, if he will do all in his power to ask North West Arts why it is not as yet giving any help to small village-based community music, such as brass bands? The Freckleton prize brass band is saying to me that my right hon. Friend should ask North West Arts to put some brass back into its band.

I appreciate my hon. Friend's interest in brass bands in the area that he represents. He will know that I do not take decisions in the precise allocation of funding for brass bands or any other arts. It is a matter for North West Arts and, to some extent, for the Arts Council. I hope that my hon. Friend will put his question directly to them.

Does the Minister recognise the serious threat to the provision for the arts in the north-west next year arising from the introduction of poll tax, which will make it extremely difficult for many local authorities to maintain the present level of funding? Will this not place in jeopardy financial provision for the Halle orchestra, the Mechanics arts centre and the Townelet museum and art gallery in Burnley?

I have every conviction that any local authority with a pride in its arts activity will continue to have that pride. It will be directly accountable to ratepayers for whatever support it decides to give. It is interesting to reflect that in Scotland, where the community charge has been operating for several months, the level of local authority support for the arts continues at a reasonable level.

You will remember, Mr. Speaker, visiting the Terrace when seven brass bands played earlier this year, and the men, women and young people who played in those bands remember your visit with pleasure. May I support my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) and at the risk of sounding slightly ethnic, ask my right hon. Friend the Minister for more brass for brass.

I note the enthusiasm for brass bands. I am sure that the various regional arts associations will note the views of the House.